Sometimes what appears to be an “open and shut case” is anything but. For instance, let’s say that an 18-wheeler, driven by a man with cocaine in his system, plows into the back of a car that is stopped in traffic, and a woman is killed.
How long should it take to resolve such an obvious case of liability? Although the accident happened in 2006, the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas recently issued an opinion in a case that – 10 years later – is still not fully resolved.
Facts of the Case
In the case of Patterson v. Brewer Leasing, Inc., the plaintiff was the administrator of the estate of a woman who was killed when her vehicle was struck by an 18-wheeler. At the time, traffic was stopped on the highway because of an over-sized load being escorted by police officers. According to witnesses, the trucker did not slow down from his highway speed of approximately 55 mph before striking the woman’s car.
The accident happened in 2006, and shortly thereafter the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and several others. In 2009, one of the defendants filed a motion to exclude evidence that the truck driver had tested positive for cocaine after the crash, stating in the motion that the amount of cocaine had not been quantified and that there was no other evidence that the trucker had been impaired. Based on the general rule that evidence of drug or alcohol consumption is not admissible without evidence of impairment that caused the accident in question, the trial court granted the motion to exclude the evidence. The plaintiff settled the case against some of the defendants, and the case went to trial against those remaining.
In 2011, the plaintiff filed a second suit, a “bill-of-review” proceeding, alleging that there had been fraud in the 2006 litigation with regard to one of the defendants’ knowledge about the amount of cocaine in the driver’s system at the time of the accident. The plaintiff sought to void certain documents that were entered into between the parties previously and sought a judgment for negligence, gross negligence, and fraud. A jury trial resulted in a take-nothing final judgment.
Proceedings on Appeal
The court reversed the trial court’s judgment on the fraud claim and remanded the case for further proceedings. In so holding, the court noted that the trial court had improperly disposed of an unresolved claim.
While the proceedings in the case were very complex and lengthy, it is an unfortunate reality that “big cases” (cases in which a large amount of money is at stake) can take a long time to resolve, especially when there are multiple defendants and multiple theories of liability. Since defendants in such cases pursue every possible avenue in an attempt to avoid or minimize liability, it is imperative that the injured person or the deceased person’s family have a knowledgeable, assertive trial attorney looking out for their interests at each step of the way.
For Legal Advice About an East Texas Truck Accident
If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck or car accident in east Texas, attorney Earl Drott can help. With 29 years of experience fighting insurance companies, trucking companies, and others who stand in the way of injured people and the families of those killed in traffic accidents from receiving just compensation, Mr. Drott has the experience that it takes to look out for your family’s interests in any east Texas truck accident case. Call us at (903)531-9300 to set up a free initial consultation.
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