Plaintiff Suffers $7 Million in Damages but Recovers $0 After Jury Assigns Him 75% Fault in Accident; Judgment Affirmed by Texas Appeals Court

roadway at sunsetIn an east Texas car accident lawsuit, a jury has three options:  find that the defendant was totally at fault, decide that the plaintiff alone caused the accident, or determine that the parties shared in the blame for the accident.

When both the plaintiff and the defendant are found to have contributed to a crash, the plaintiff can only recover compensation if he or she is less than 50% at fault. In such cases, the plaintiff recovers damages in proportion to the defendant’s fault. Recently, a jury in a truck/motorcycle crash found that the plaintiff had suffered damages of $7 million, but, since the plaintiff himself was 75% at fault in the wreck, he received nothing.

Facts of the Case

In a recently decided appellate court case, the plaintiff was a motorcycle rider who was injured in a serious accident with an 18-wheeler. He filed suit against the defendants, the driver and owner of the truck, asserting that the trucker’s negligence caused the crash. A two-week jury trial resulted in a take-nothing judgment in the defendants’ favor. The plaintiff appealed, urging that the lower court had made several reversible errors.

Issues on Appeal

Did the trial court err in admitting an investigating officer’s deposition testimony to the effect that the plaintiff caused the accident by unsafely passing the truck on the right? Was the officer’s field diagram unreliable? Was it improper for the trial court to admit evidence of the plaintiff’s “prior bad acts,” specifically four speeding tickets, two felony convictions for evading arrest while on a motorcycle, and a probation violation for driving a motorcycle after his driving privileges had been suspended?

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The appellate court affirmed, holding that the plaintiff had waived some of the issues on appeal and that the trial court’s alleged error as to another issue “probably did not cause the rendition of an improper judgment.” As to the trial court’s alleged errors concerning the officer’s testimony and the plaintiff’s bad acts, the court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff had waived any complaint about these purported mistakes because he had discussed this evidence during his opening statement and had introduced it at trial.

As to the trial court’s exclusion of an eyewitness’ testimony regarding fault, the court found that this opinion testimony should have been admitted because it was rationally based on the witness’ perception of the accident and would have been helpful to the jury. However, taking all of the evidence into consideration, including the witness’ testimony as to what she saw during the accident, the trial court’s exclusion of testimony regarding fault was not grounds for reversal.

Have a Legal Question About an East Texas Motor Vehicle Accident?

At Earl Drott Law, we handle a variety of east Texas truck accident, motorcycle crash, and car wreck cases. Call us at 903-531-9300 to schedule a free review of your Tyler or Smith County personal injury or wrongful death case. Make this appointment promptly, since we need time to investigate the accident and prepare the appropriate paperwork for filing prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Claims not filed by this important deadline are usually dismissed, even if the plaintiff would have otherwise had a very strong case of liability against the negligent party.

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What Happens After an East Texas Car Accident in Which the Plaintiff Also Was Negligent?