Texas Court Affirms a “Take-Nothing” Judgment in Negligence Case

Car accidents occur far too often on East Texas roadways. Innocent drivers and passengers often sustain mild to serious injuries as a result of these crashes. Fortunately, in many cases, the injured plaintiffs are eligible to bring a claim to recover damages for their suffering and losses. As with most legal proceedings, parties must be sure to adhere to the applicable laws and other related requirements, which certainly vary depending on the particular circumstances of the case at hand. If you have been injured in a car or truck accident, you are strongly encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced East Texas injury attorney as soon as possible.

In any personal injury action arising from a car accident, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the occurrence at issue. Failing to appropriately plead and prove causation is likely to result in an unsuccessful claim. In a recent Texas negligence case, the court ultimately affirmed a “take-nothing” judgment, which means that the plaintiff was not entitled to compensation. Here, the plaintiff, Catherine St. Germain, was a passenger in a car driven by Andrew Carter. According to the facts revealed at trial, while driving on Interstate 30, Carter swerved to avoid a ladder that was lying on the ground across his lane. In attempting to avoid the ladder, he struck a truck that had been driven by Billy Schoppe and pushed it onto the emergency lane.

The plaintiff brought this negligence action against both Carter and Schoppe, alleging that, despite the heavy traffic conditions, Carter was negligent in driving at 60 MPH and following only one car length behind the car in front of him when he attempted to avoid the ladder in the road. Many different parties testified at trial, including Carter, Schoppe, Catherine, the officer on the scene, and an accident reconstruction expert. Additionally, the court instructed the jury on the doctrine of “sudden emergency,” which identifies circumstances under which a person’s conduct is not negligence. For example, if a person confronts an emergency that arises suddenly and unexpectedly (which was not proximately caused by his or her own negligence), and acts in a way that an ordinarily prudent person would have acted, his or her conduct is not deemed negligent.

When asked whether Carter’s or Schoppe’s negligence (if any) proximately caused the occurrence, the jury answered “no.” As a result, the court issued a “take-nothing” judgment from which the plaintiff appealed, arguing that the jury’s finding contradicted the “great weight and preponderance of the evidence.” The court of appeals affirmed the decision, pointing out that there was “wildly conflicting evidence” as to the traffic conditions at the time of the accident.

Under Texas law, when there is conflicting evidence, the jury’s decision concerning such matters is typically deemed conclusive. In a recent blog post, we reported on another Texas court that came to a similar conclusion. Since the court found competent evidence to support the jury’s conclusion, it was required to sustain the decision. Here, the jury found that the emergency was not proximately caused by any negligence attributable to Carter, and therefore it properly applied the sudden emergency doctrine in finding that Carter’s conduct in such an emergency was not negligent.

These two recent decisions exemplify the need to set forth a strong case when it comes to achieving a recovery in a car accident lawsuit. It is important to seek the guidance of an experienced injury lawyer. Earl Drott is an injury attorney with more than 25 years of experience representing victims in auto accident cases in the East Texas area. For a free consultation, call (903) 531-9300.

Related Blog Posts:

Texas Court Affirms Jury’s Findings of Proximate Cause in Truck Accident Case

Texas Supreme Court Reviews Evidence of Causation in Truck Accident Case

Texas Court Upholds Award of Damages for Multiple Categories in Car Accident Case

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