Here’ s some good news: one of the two Houston courts of appeal (pictured here) reversed a motion for summary judgment. This allows a plaintiff to prosecute his case for damages against a negligent 18 wheeker driver and his trucking company. The man, also a truck driver, was seriously injured by a truck at a rest stop when the semi truck ran into him.
In the case Ramirez v. Colonial Freight Warehouse, Inc., a truck driver stopped at a truck stop to buy food. As he was walking back to his big rig, he crossed in front of a parked 18 wheeler. Its driver apparently saw him but drove forward. The tractor truck hit the man. He hit the pavement and injured his neck and shoulder. Both were later surgically repaired. The plaintiff filed suit against the truck driver and his company.
The 18 Wheeler Driver Violated Safety Regulations
Commercial truck drivers must conform to stringent requirements set forth under federal and state law. The driver here began driving without checking to see if his path was clear.
He failed to yield the right of way. He never applied his brakes. In Texas, many people travel by foot and pedestrian knock-down accidents are far too common. The injuries can be devastating, even deadly. We represented the family of a 15 year old young man several years ago who has hit by an 18 wheeler on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth when the driver of his car had a blow-out. He tragically the next day. We were able to track down the big rig even though it failed to stop and recovered a large settlement just before trial. In another case last year, we recovered a substantial sum of money from a commercial truck company whose driver hit a man running across Interstate 30 in east Fort Worth.
The Trucking Company Violated Its Duty To Investigate the Trucker’s Past
The trucking company was at fault for hiring the driver. It never investigated his past extremely poor driving record, references, or criminal record, as required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 49 CFR § 391.23 by failing to make:
(1) An inquiry to each State where the driver held or holds a motor vehicle operator’s license or permit during the preceding 3 years to obtain that driver’s motor vehicle record.
(2) An investigation of the driver’s safety performance history with Department of Transportation regulated employers during the preceding three years, including
Alcohol tests with a result of 0.04 or higher alcohol concentration; and
The at-fault truck driver testified in his deposition that he had been involved in eight previous wrecks or violations of trucking law. In one, he rammed his truck into a guard rail which caused it to burn to the ground. The driver had repeatedly been fired and said that this was the trucking company that would hire him. It never performed the required investigation. In fact, the company’s safety manager told the driver to cover up past accidents. Now that makes you feel safer on the highways, doesn’t it?
The Trial Court Dismisses Plaintiff’s Lawsuit
You would think that negligence was apparent, or at the very least, should have been submitted to the jury. But the trial court inexplicably granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 166a(1) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and dismissed the case. The judge found that there was no evidence of any negligence, even though the plaintiff had raised a genuine issue of material fact regarding both the truck driver’s negligent driving and his company’s hiring and entrusting the truck to him.
The Appellate Court Reverses the Trial Court’s Judgment
On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s summary judgment and remanded the case for trial. The court of appeals noted that a negligence claim has three elements: (1) a legal duty, (2) breach of that duty, and (3) damages proximately resulting from the breach. The trucking company disputed the second element, arguing that the truck driver didn’t see any pedestrians when he drove forward. The appellate court disagreed. The company also argued that plaintiff had not presented any evidence despite the fact that plaintiff’s lengthy deposition was attached to his response. This was a rare win for a plaintiff on appeal.
Have You Been Injured in a Trucking Accident?
If you have been the victim of a trucking accident, whether you were a pedestrian or a driver, you may be entitled to monetary damages if the other driver can proven to be negligent in causing the collision. Negligence is the failure to take ordinary care. Commercial truck drivers are held to an even higher standard of care. Berenson Injury Law has been successful in collecting millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements from commercial vehicle companies and their insurance companies.
To learn more about the laws of negligence in Texas, contact an experienced Click for more information about Attorney Berenson here, and call 817-885-8000 or toll-free 1-800-801-8585 to schedule a free, no hassle consultation.
18 Wheeler Truck Crashes into McDonald’s, Injuring Seven, May 2, 2014.
North Dallas Crash: 18 Wheeler Explodes, May 21, 2014.