Texas Court Discusses Employment Status in Trucking Accident Cases

Many businesses use trucking companies to transport their products in and around Texas. While the size of tractor trailers makes them efficient for hauling goods, it also creates substantial risks for other people on the road, as collisions involving commercial trucks are frequently deadly. People hurt in such crashes can often recover damages from both the driver of the truck and their employer. However, as demonstrated in a recent Texas ruling issued in a truck accident case, JNM Express, et al. v. Lauro Lozano Jr. and Irene Lozano (No. 21-0853), it is not always readily evident who employs a truck driver and is therefore responsible for the harm they cause. If you were hurt in a truck collision, it is crucial to confer with a Texas truck accident lawyer about your rights as soon as possible.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is alleged that the plaintiff and a truck driver were involved in a collision. The collision, which caused the plaintiff severe injuries, was caused by the truck driver falling asleep at the wheel. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant trucking company and the defendant brokerage companies, both of which he alleged were the driver’s employers, alleging negligence and gross negligence against the companies and their owners.

Reportedly, following a trial, the jury awarded substantial damages, including exemplary damages against the companies. The trial court held all defendants jointly and severally liable for the damages. Following an appeal, the court of appeals affirmed most of the judgment but eliminated joint and several liability for exemplary damages against the owners. The defendants then filed a petition for review, which the court granted.

Determining Employment Status in Trucking Accident Cases

The primary issue on appeal was whether the trial court correctly used federal regulations’ definitions in the jury charge to determine the driver’s employment status. The defendants argued that the common-law definitions should apply instead.

The court found that the defendants adequately objected to the use of federal regulations’ definitions, preserving the issue for appeal. However, it remanded the case to determine the correct definitions to apply and whether the defendants were the driver’s employers.

The court also addressed the issue of alter ego liability, determining that there was insufficient evidence to pierce the corporate veil between the defendants and their owners.

As a result, the court rendered judgment in favor of one of the defendant brokerage company and removed one of the owners as a defendant. The court emphasized that further proceedings would address remaining issues, such as damages and preserved objections.

Consult a Seasoned Texas Truck Accident Attorney

Truck accidents can cause catastrophic injuries, and in many cases, multiple parties are responsible.  If you were injured in a collision involving a tractor trailer, you have the right to seek compensation, and you should speak to a lawyer about your potential claims. Earl Drott is a seasoned Texas truck accident attorney who possesses the skills and experience needed to help you seek the results you deserve, and if you engage his services, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Drott to arrange a free consultation through the online form or at 903-531-9300.

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