Texas Court Grants Mandamus Relief to Defendant in Car Accident Case, Allowing Defendant to Designate Additional Responsible Parties – In re Bustamante

When an injured person files a lawsuit seeking compensation for injuries resulting from another party’s allegedly negligent conduct, he or she has the prerogative to name certain parties as defendants and refrain from naming other potential defendants.

The named defendant(s), however, may be able to obtain leave from the trial court to name additional persons or businesses as responsible parties.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of In re Bustamante, the plaintiff was a man who was injured when a vehicle struck him and pinned him against the wall of a convenience center. At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was acting in the course and scope of his employment. He filed suit against the owner of his corporate employer. Earlier, he settled a workers’ compensation case with the employer and a personal injury claim with the person whose vehicle struck him.

The defendant filed a motion for leave to designate the driver and the employer as responsible third parties under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 33.004. The plaintiff objected to the motion on the grounds that it was filed after the statute of limitations had expired and that the defendant had failed to make a timely disclosure to the effect that the driver and employer were responsible third parties.

The trial court denied the defendant’s motion.

Proceeding Before the Court of Appeals

The defendant filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, urging the appellate court to grant him relief on the ground that the trial court had erred in denying his motion for leave to designate the driver and employer as responsible third parties. After considering the defendant’s petition, the court conditionally granted mandamus relief to the defendant.

According to the appellate court, the trial court “clearly abused its discretion,” and thus the defendant was entitled to the relief sought. In so holding, the court did not reach the defendant’s alternative plea for relief pertaining to summary judgment.

In the court’s determination, the plaintiff knew that the driver and employer were potential responsible third parties. Even if he had not so known, the defendant had complied with his obligation to timely disclose any party who might be designated as a responsible third party, if any such obligation existed. Under § 33.004, a court “shall” grant a motion for leave to designate a responsible third party unless an objecting party establishes that the defendant failed to plead sufficient facts to satisfy Texas’ basic pleading requirement.

There being no such assertion by the plaintiff, the trial court should have granted leave to the defendant. Although previous case law held that mandamus relief was not appropriate in such cases, the court revisited the issue and determined that the better practice was to recognize that an appeal was not an adequate remedy.

Talk to an Experienced Texas Car Accident Lawyer

If you have been hurt in a car accident, truck wreck, or motorcycle crash, you need dependable legal advice. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable east Texas car accident attorney, call the law offices of Earl Drott, P.C. at (903) 531-9300 and ask for a free consultation. No legal fees are collected up front, so there is no reason to put off this very important phone call.

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