Federal District Court Grants Summary Judgment to Trucking Company in Texas Truck Accident Case Involving Multiple Fatalities

East Texas truck wreck cases often involve many legal theories, especially in cases resulting in wrongful death. Some of these theories may be “direct negligence” theories of liability against the trucking outfit that owned the big rig involved in the crash (such as negligent hiring, negligent training, etc.) Sometimes, there may also be indirect negligence claims, such as an allegation of respondeat superior for the careless driving of the trucker who caused the accident.

Of course, the exact claims and legal theories vary from case to case, depending on the circumstances of a particular crash. If you or a loved one has been hurt by a negligent trucker or trucking outfit, an attorney experienced in these types of cases can help you get started on the appropriate claim(s) in your situation.

It is important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after a truck crash because such cases tend to be complex, requiring a thorough investigation of the crash and prompt legal action. Failure to speak to counsel early on can give the trucking outfit’s insurance company a considerable advantage as the case develops, so please act quickly if you find your or someone in your family has been involved in a truck accident.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent federal case were the administrator of the estate of a woman who passed away as a result of a 2018 tractor trailer accident and the woman’s children, who joined in the suit in their individual capacities. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, their decedent died as a result of a crash that happened when the 18-wheeler in which she was riding (she was asleep in the truck’s sleeping berth) collided with several other vehicles that were stopped on Interstate 10.

The plaintiffs sought to recover money damages from the defendant trucking company (for whom the driver of the truck in which the decedent was riding at the time of the wreck allegedly worked as an independent contractor), posing several theories of liability, including gross negligence; negligent entrustment; negligent hiring, retention, training, and supervision; and negligent inspection, maintenance, and repair. The trucking company filed a motion for summary judgment, insisting that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The Court’s Decision

In support of its motion for summary judgment, the trucking company pointed out that, prior to her death, the decedent had worked as a co-driver of the truck and that, although she did not have a direct employment relationship with the trucking company, she was covered under a workers’ compensation agreement that she, the trucking company, and the truck driver had entered into. The trucking company argued that, thus, it could not be held liable for the decedent’s death because of the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation and/or the lack of evidentiary support for the plaintiffs’ direct negligence claims.

The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas granted the trucking company’s motion for summary judgment, holding that there were no genuine issues of material fact regarding the validity of the workers’ compensation agreement and that the trucking company was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on both the question of whether the agreement was in force at the time of the wreck and the issue of whether the decedent was injured during the course and scope of her employment. In the court’s view, there was a rational, causal connection between the decedent’s presence in the sleeping berth and her role as a co-driver with the trucking company. Because the entire purpose of drivers working in tandem was so that one driver could drive while the other slept, it was a necessary part of the decedent’s job to rest in the sleeping berth while the truck driver operated the 18-wheeler.

Hire a Truck Accident Lawyer

It is important to get as early a start as possible in a truck accident case. You can bet that the trucker’s insurance company will have “boots on the ground” within hours of the crash, which can put the injured person at a serious disadvantage if he or she does not have someone looking out for his or her interests during the investigative stage of the case. To schedule a consultation regarding your Tyler, Smith County, or other east Texas truck accident case, call Earl Drott Law today at 903-531-9300.

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