Texas Appeals Court Holds that Summary Judgment Was Improper in Drag Strip Participant’s Negligence Law Suit

Not all motor vehicle accidents happen on a street or highway. Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents can happen in parking lots, on other private property, and even on racetracks. Just as in other negligence cases, the burden in a Texas car accident case is on the plaintiff to show that the defendant breached a duty of care and that his or her injuries were the proximate result of this breach of duty. The defendant, in turn, may offer up one of more affirmative defenses aimed at preventing the plaintiff from prevailing at trial and/or to reduce any compensation ultimately awarded to the plaintiff in the case. A case of this nature was recently heard by the Texas Appellate Court, which ultimately found that a lower court had made a mistake in dismissing all of the driver’s claims against an allegedly negligence racetrack owner.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a driver who was seriously injured when he lost control of his vehicle while participating in activities at a drag strip. His vehicle struck a retaining wall, catching fire and causing him permanent and severe injuries. According to the plaintiff, the accident happened because the defendant drag strip owner had been negligent in not effectively cleaning up fluids spilled in an earlier accident, thus causing the track to be dangerously slick. The plaintiff suffered both orthopedic injuries and severe burns in the crash.

In response to the plaintiff’s claims that it was negligence and grossly negligent in failing to adequately clean the unsafe track conditions, provide appropriate fire-fighting equipment, provide appropriate medical personnel and equipment, and provide an adequately-designed safety retaining wall, the defendant filed a combined no-evidence and traditional summary judgment motion. The district court found in the defendant’s favor as to the combined motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

The Court’s Decision on Appeal

The Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District of Texas affirmed in part and reversed in part. In the reviewing court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s evidence in response to the defendant’s motion for summary judgment did not raise a genuine issue of material fact on the plaintiff’s gross negligence claim (his summary judgment response did not even discuss gross negligence, according to the appellate court); thus, the trial court had been correct in ruling in the defendant’s favor on that part of the case.

With respect to the plaintiff’s negligence claim, however, the court held that the defendant had failed to prove, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff had released his negligence claim and that, because there was a factual issue on this part of the case, summary judgment had been erroneous. Although the defendant argued that all of the plaintiff’s claims were barred because he had signed a waiver or release, the court of appeals found that the “tech card” upon which the defendant relied did not incorporate (by reference or otherwise) an alleged release form, nor did the “tech card” constitute an effective release in and of itself. The court also opined that the defendant had failed to establish that a member of the plaintiff’s crew had signed a release on his behalf on the day of the race.

Call an East Texas Car Accident Lawyer

As this case illustrates, there are seemingly endless ways in which the negligence of a business, individual, or governmental entity can cause serious harm to an innocent person. When these accidents happen, the negligent defendant’s insurance company will make every attempt to either avoid liability completely or reduce the payout on the claim as much as possible. To get a fair trial, the injured person needs an experienced east Texas car accident lawyer on his or her side. For an appointment to discuss your case, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300 and ask for a complimentary case evaluation.