It is not unusual for a Texas car accident case to be resolved prior to trial. The most commonly recognized way that this can happen through a settlement, in which the defendant agrees to pay the plaintiff a certain sum of money in exchange for the dismissal of the case.
It can also happen on a motion for summary judgment, a procedure through which the trial court finds in favor of one party or the other “as a matter of law,” without a jury’s involvement. Often, cases that end in summary judgment are the subject of an appeal.
Facts of the Case
In a case recently reviewed by the court of appeals, the plaintiff was a railroad corporation that filed suit against the defendant motorist, seeking compensation for property damage incurred in a train-automobile collision in February 2015. The defendant filed an answer denying the plaintiff’s allegations and, later, filed several counterclaims, asserting that the plaintiff was responsible for certain injuries that he had suffered in the collision. The motorist’s passengers filed a separate lawsuit, seeking damages for their injuries.
After various amendments and motions, the trial court granted summary judgment to the railroad, ordering the motorist to pay the railroad $8,753 in damages.
Decision of the Court
The lower court’s decision was affirmed on appeal. When reviewing a trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment, the reviewing court must determine whether the moving party met its burden of establishing that no genuine issue(s) of material fact existed, thus entitling the moving party to judgment as a matter of law. In doing this, the reviewing court resolves any doubts in the non-moving party’s favor.
With regard to the defendants’ complaint that certain amendments to the Federal Railroad Safety Act superseded the plaintiff’s federal-preemption defense, the court held that the amendments had no impact on the preemption issues supporting the trial court’s orders or that the amendments set aside the federal preemption scheme outlined in prior case law.
The court also overruled the defendants’ second and fourth issues pertaining to causation. According to the defendants, the motorist’s actions could not have been the proximate cause of the collision because the rig that he was driving complied with Texas state law regarding the length of a rig. However, the court found that this argument was without merit.
The court also ruled in the railroad company’s favor regarding the trial court’s sanctions order against the defendants, as well as on the defendants’ argument that the summary judgment process violated their right to a jury trial, holding that summary judgment did not violate the defendants’ constitutional rights.
Contact an East Texas Attorney
There are many ways in which motor vehicle accidents can occur – single-vehicle, multi-vehicle, or, as here, car vs. train. At Earl Drott Law in Tyler, Texas, we have over three decades of experience representing east Texans after a wide variety of car accidents and other motor vehicle wrecks. Call us at 903-531-9300 to schedule a free consultation regarding your accident case. In most cases, we work on a contingency fee contract, so you do not have to pay a legal fee upfront in order to get your case started.
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