Texas Court Discusses Tolling Statute in Car Accident Case

How Texas courts interpret statutes has real consequences on the exercise of government power and the outcome of disputes. For example, a recent Texas car accident case, Sibel Onasis Ferrer v.  Madalena Elizabeth Almanza et al., No. 21-0513, illustrates the difference between a pragmatic common-law approach, which empowers courts to void statutes they view as obsolete, and a formal textualist approach, which adheres to the ordinary meaning of the words enacted and leaves updating to the legislative branch. Despite previous statements favoring the latter approach, the Court, in this case, opted for the former, deviating from the ordinary meaning of Texas’s tolling statute’s language. If you were injured in a car crash, it is important to speak to a Texas car accident lawyer as soon as possible to avoid waiving your right to recover damages.

History of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by one of the defendants. The plaintiff suffered injuries in the crash and subsequently instituted a lawsuit against the defendants. Following discovery, the defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that the statute of limitations barred the plaintiff’s claim.

Allegedly, the plaintiff objected to the defendant’s motion, averring that Texas’s tolling statute applied because the defendant driver was away at college following the accident, and therefore, her claim was timely. The court found in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiff appealed.

Interpretation of Texas Tolling Statute

On appeal, the court affirmed the trial court ruling. The sole issue addressed on appeal was whether a Texas resident who attends college in another state could be considered “absent” from Texas for the purpose of extending the statute of limitations to sue her for a car accident that occurred in Texas.

The court ultimately ruled that the definition of “absence from this state” in the tolling statute as not based on physical location, but rather on whether a defendant is under the jurisdiction of Texas and can be served. This applies equally to resident and nonresident defendants. If a defendant is under Texas jurisdiction and can be served, then they are not considered absent from Texas under the tolling statute and it does not apply.

In the subject case, the defendant driver, although attending college outside of Texas for a few months, remained under Texas jurisdiction and could be served throughout the relevant two-year limitations period. Therefore, the tolling statute did not pause the running of the statute of limitations. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court ruling in favor of the defendant.

Meet with an Experienced Texas Attorney

Parties injured in collisions can often recover damages from those responsible for their harm, but they must act promptly; otherwise, their claims may be barred by the statute of limitations. If you were hurt in a car accident, it is in your best interest to meet with an attorney to discuss your rights. Earl Drott is an experienced Texas attorney who is proficient at helping people hurt by the negligence of others in the pursuit of justice, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.

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