Texas Court Affirms Jury Verdict Allocating Fault to Multiple Parties in Car Accident Case

If someone runs a stop sign and causes a wreck, shouldn’t they be 100% responsible for any and all damages suffered by an innocent person in the other vehicle? Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not as simple as it might seem.

In a recent Texas car accident case, several issues arose that stood in the way of an injured man receiving full compensation for injuries suffered in a car wreck that the defendant admitted happened after he ran a stop sign.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who was injured in an automobile accident that occurred when the defendant motorist ran a stop sign in a residential neighborhood. (The plaintiff’s wife joined in the action to assert a claim for loss of consortium.) After the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit seeking monetary compensation from the defendant motorist, the defendant designated a property owner and a city as responsible third parties, averring that their failure to trim certain trees in the area of the stop sign caused or contributed to the accident.

The case was tried to a jury, which found that the defendant was 33% at fault, the city was 34% at fault, and the property owner was 33% at fault. The jury awarded a total of $100,000 to the plaintiffs, but presumably they could only recover 33% of that amount from the defendant motorist (perhaps due to the running of the statute of limitations against the other defendants). The plaintiffs appealed, arguing that the trial court should have directed a verdict in their favor as to the issue of the negligence of the city and property owner and that the jury’s $0 verdict for the male plaintiff’s past disfigurement was against the greater weight and preponderance of the evidence.

The Court’s Decision

The Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the trial court’s order, holding that sufficient evidence was admitted at trial to permit a rational fact-finder to conclude that the city had reason to know of the obscured condition of the stop sign and that the evidence supported a finding that the city had a duty to either correct or warn of the condition of the stop sign. Thus, it was not an error for the trial court to refuse to direct a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs on the issue of the city’s negligence.

With regard to the property owner, the appellate court found that the owner had a duty to exercise a reasonable amount of care to avoid endangering the safety of persons using the public road near their property for travel. Thus, the plaintiffs were not entitled to a directed verdict on the issue of the property owner’s negligence.

The court likewise affirmed on the issue of the jury’s award (or, more accurately, lack thereof) for the plaintiff’s past disfigurement, holding that the jury’s finding was to be accorded great deference because the jury was the sole judge of the witnesses’ credibility on this issue. In so holding, the court noted that the decision to award damages for disfigurement – and how much to award – was “uniquely within the fact-finder’s discretion.”

To Speak to an Experienced East Texas Car Accident Lawyer

Being injured in a car accident caused by someone else’s negligence can leave an accident victim with substantial medical expenses, as well as lost wages and pain and suffering. Seasoned east Texas car accident attorney Earl Drott has 34 years of experience helping families seek justice after a crash, and he is here to serve your legal needs. Call 903-531-9300 for a free case review today!

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