Usually, the defendant in a car, truck, or motorcycle accident case is the driver who was allegedly at fault in the crash. However, this is not always the case.
Sometimes, there are other parties – businesses, governmental entities, etc. – whose negligence may have caused or at least contributed to the cause of a particular accident. An example of such a situation was highlighted in a recent appellate court case.
Facts of the Case
Recently, the Texas Court of Appeals released an opinion in a case in which the plaintiff was injured in a collision at an intersection. The plaintiff, who was riding a motorcycle at the time of the crash, suffered a severe injury to his leg that ultimately resulted in a partial amputation. He filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant utility company, alleging that the company was responsible for an inoperative traffic light at the intersection where the accident happened.
According to the plaintiff, the defendant was negligent because it did not properly install, inspect, or maintain the “stirrup clamp” whose failure apparently led to a power failure that, in turn, caused the traffic light at the intersection to stop working. The clamp was 33 years old. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment and a motion to exclude the testimony of a certain expert witness. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant, thereby deeming the motion to exclude the witness’ testimony as moot.
The Appellate Court’s Decision
The court of appeals affirmed the lower tribunal’s ruling in the defendant’s favor. First noting that the elements of a negligence claim are duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages, the court noted that a plaintiff must be able to show that the defendant’s action or inaction was the cause in fact of the accident and that the accident was foreseeable given the defendant’s conduct. Although the plaintiff argued that the defendant’s negligent installation of the clamp was the proximate cause of his injuries, the court found that, even if the defendant was negligent, a second, independent act of negligence was the cause of the accident – namely, the failure of one of the drivers in the accident to treat the “uncommunicative and passive” traffic light as a four-way stop.
In so holding, the court noted that the defendant’s alleged act of negligence in installing the clamp had occurred some 33 years earlier. According to the court, that act of negligence “had come to rest without injury to anyone.” When the clamp failed and the line fell, the defendant dispatched linemen to the location of the clamp within three minutes. The plaintiff’s accident happened just two minutes later, before the defendant had been notified of the inoperative traffic light at the intersection.
Need Advice About an East Texas Motor Vehicle Accident?
A traffic accident can change a person’s life in an instant. Medical bills can be staggering, and the accident victim may be off work for weeks or months. Pain and suffering can be immense. If your family is suffering because of a collision caused by someone else’s negligence, you should talk to a lawyer about the possibility of filing a claim seeking fair compensation for your injuries. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable east Texas car, truck, and motorcycle accident attorney, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300. Our offices are located in Tyler, and we handle motor vehicle collision cases throughout Smith County and the surrounding area.
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