Parents Of Texas Driver Killed In Accident Lose Appeal

Recently the parents of a young woman named Shellae Vicknair appealed a summary judgment motion in a case involving her tragic death in a car accident east of the Metroplex. Vicknair was killed after she was struck by Mark Peters’s truck. Vicknair’s estate argued that (1) Peters owed Vicknair a duty of care to drive in an ordinary and prudent manner as a matter of law and (2) the estate had presented more than a scintilla of evidence to support each element of the negligence case.

The accident took place during the early morning hours in January 2009. Vicknair was driving east of Dallas on Interstate 20 when she hit the interior median wall. Vicknair’s gray Mazda came to a stop almost perpendicular to the median wall, with a significant portion blocking the interior lane. The Mazda was difficult to see because the accident occurred on an unlit portion of the Interstate.

Vicknair left the vehicle to retrieve some personal items from her trunk and stood in the inside traffic lane. Peters unfortunately did not see Vicknair or her vehicle until it was too late and collided with them. Vicknair later died.

Vicknair’s parents sued Peters and the owner of the truck, an auto dealership that he owned, for negligence, negligent entrustment, and negligence per se. The plaintiff alleged that (1) Peters failed to keep a proper lookout for Vicknair’s safety that would have been done by an ordinary prudent person under similar circumstances; (2) Peters failed to take safe, evasive action to avoid the collision; (3) Peters was operating the truck at a speed greater than would have been operated by an ordinary prudent person; (4) Peters failed to apply the brake in a timely and prudent manner; (5) Peters failed to obey the rules of the road; and (6) Peters drove in a reckless and indifferent manner. Peters responded by filing a no evidence motion for summary judgment, that is, the plaintiff’s case should be dismissed..

Vicknair’s estate responded by filing a witness statement claiming that two of three cars missed Vicknair’s car, but that a third — Peters’s truck — struck her car in the rear. The plaintiff also pointed to Peters’s deposition testimony, where he stated that there was nothing obstructing his view of the roadway at the time of the collision and that everything was functioning properly on his truck, including his headlights.

The trial court granted Peters’s summary judgment motion and Vicknair’s estate appealed.

In a decision just released, the Court of Appeals sitting in Tyler looked at whether Vicknair’s estate had met its burden of showing that Peters had a duty of care that he breached. The court ruled in favor of Peters on the grounds that, even in looking at evidence in light most favorable to Vicknairs’s estate, it was still weak. There was no evidence as to whether the two vehicles that missed Vicknair’s were traveling on the inside lane like Peters’s truck was, or that Peters could have seen Vicknair’s vehicle in enough time to change lanes even if he had no obstructed view.

I have been representing Texans injured in accidents for over 33 years. If you need an experienced Board Certified Fort Worth personal injury attorney who will provide you with compassionate legal representation, contact my office today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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