Texas Court Allows Defendants to Designate Responsible Third Party in Car Accident Lawsuit, Over Plaintiffs’ Objections

When an East Texas car accident involves multiple vehicles, as most do, it is typical for a person who is injured in one car to name the driver of the other automobile as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit seeking compensation.

The defendant may disagree with this and claim that the other driver was at fault. If it is the driver himself who filed the lawsuit, this is typically done in the form of an answer and counter-complaint. If the plaintiff is, instead, a passenger, the defendant may still name the other driver as a responsible third party, but the process of doing so is more complicated.

Facts of the Case

In a mandamus proceeding (Court of Appeals for the Second District of Texas; No. 02-18-00001-CV) recently reviewed by a Texas appeals court, the plaintiffs were passengers who were riding in a vehicle that was struck in the rear by a man who was driving a truck owned by a drilling company. The plaintiffs filed suit against the driver of the truck and the drilling company in 2017, but they did not name the operator of the automobile in which they were riding at the time of the accident as a defendant.

In their responses to the plaintiffs’ requests for disclosure filed five months after the plaintiffs’ complaint, the driver of the truck and the drilling company identified the operator of the automobile in which the plaintiffs were riding as an individual who may be designated as a responsible third party. Thereafter, the driver of the truck and the drilling company filed a motion for leave to designate the operator of the other vehicle as a responsible third party. The plaintiffs objected on the ground that the operator was not identified as a potential responsible third party within 50 days of the plaintiffs’ requests for disclosures. The trial court agreed with the plaintiffs and denied the defendants’ motion.

The defendants then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the appellate court, asking the court to instruct the trial court judge to set aside his order denying the defendants leave to designate a responsible third party.

The Court’s Ruling

The appeals court conditionally granted the requested relief. According to the court, the defendants’ motion to designate was timely under the circumstances presented in this particular case under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.004. Since the trial court had no discretion to deny a timely filed motion to designate, absent a pleading defect and an opportunity to cure – neither of which occurred here, the defendants were entitled to the relief sought.

Characterizing the plaintiffs’ objection to the defendants’ motion as “an ill-advised attempt to procedurally game [the defendants] out of their statutory right to designate a responsible third party,” the court noted that the plaintiffs had filed their complaint just days before the running of the statute of limitations and that the plaintiffs should have been aware that the operator of the vehicle in which they were riding (who had slowed to make a U-turn at the time of the crash) might possibly be accused of negligence by the defendants.

Have Questions About an East Texas Car Accident?

As this illustrates, matters of timeliness can be very important in personal injury litigation. If you or a loved one has been involved in an east Texas car accident and need legal advice about your case, call Earl Drott Law in Tyler at 903-531-9300. There is no charge for the consultation, and everything you say will be held in strictest confidence.

Related Blog Posts:

Texas Supreme Court Rules in a Car Accident Case Arising from Accident Allegedly Caused by Drilling Company Employee

Texas Court Denies Mandamus Relief to Defendants Who Sought Dismissal of 2010 Car Accident Case

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