Truck Accident Lawsuit Involving Request for Truckers’ Drug and Alcohol Tests Considered by Texas Appellate Court

In a Texas truck accident case, it is not unusual for one or both parties to send certain requests for information and/or documentation to the other. This process is known as “discovery” and is intended to assist the parties in preparing for trial and, if possible, facilitating a settlement.

Sometimes, disputes arise during discovery, with one party or the other objecting to requests propounded by their opponent. Some grounds for objection include over-breadth of the request(s) or irrelevance of the information sought. Certain privileges may also come into play (such as the attorney-client privilege or the attorney work product doctrine). These disputes are usually settled by the trial court judge, but sometimes there is involvement from the court of appeals, as well.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the original plaintiffs were individuals who had been involved in a multi-car accident and/or had relatives who had perished in the accident. They filed suit in the 4th District Court of Rusk County, Texas, asserting claims against the truck driver whose negligence allegedly caused the crash and the delivery company that employed him. During the course of litigation, the plaintiffs sent the defendants interrogatories and requests for production. Included in these were a) requests for information concerning the identity of all commercial truck drivers dispatched out of the same facility as the defendant truck driver from 2006 to 2017 and the time in which those drivers were employed, and b) copies of documentation of all alcohol, drug, and controlled substance tests of the commercial truck drivers identified in the previous request.

The defendants objected to these requests for information and documentation.  After the trial court judge entered an order compelling the defendants to comply with the plaintiffs’ discovery requests, the defendants filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, requesting a temporary stay and an order compelling the trial court judge to vacate his order compelling discovery.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the Twelfth Court of Appeals District at Tyler, Texas, granted the defendants’ request for a temporary stay of the trial court’s order compelling discovery and directed any real parties in interest to respond to the defendants’ petition. After the appropriate responses were filed, the court then conditionally granted the defendants’ petition for relief, first noting that discovery requests had to show a reasonable expectation of obtaining information that would aid in the resolution of the dispute at hand and, thus, were to be reasonably tailored to include only matters that were relevant to the case at bar.

In applying the applicable standards to the plaintiffs’ discovery requests, the appellate court held that the trial court had abused its discretion in granting the requests as they were originally submitted. In the court’s view, the likelihood that employees’ identities and test results from 11 years prior to the accident would shed any light on the case at bar was “too small to justify discovery.” Consequently, the trial court was directed to vacate its previous order and, in its place, enter an order narrowing the parameters of discovery to a period of time that was not overly broad.

For Advice About an East Texas Crash

Trucking companies and their insurance companies often fight hard to keep injured people and their families from discovering information that would lead to a fair settlement or judgment. If you need to talk to an east Texas truck accident lawyer who will help you fight for what is fair in your case, call Earl Drott Law at 903-531-9300. With board certification in personal injury law and over three decades of experience, you can be assured that we will do our best to obtain the most favorable result possible in your case.