Widow of trucker petitions Texas Supreme Court to hear wrongful death suit

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | 12/4/2018

The wife of a trucker who was killed in a rollover crash is asking the Texas Supreme Court to hear her case after two lower courts ruled that there was not enough evidence to suggest the trucking company was negligent in its actions.

On Nov. 21, Cora Sue Sanchez, representing the estate of Anthony Sanchez, filed a petition for review in the Texas Supreme Court after the Seventh District Court of Appeals ruled that the district court was correct in dismissing the case against Roberts Truck Center.

In March 2014, Anthony Sanchez was killed in a rollover crash in Upton County, Texas. No other vehicles were involved. Roberts Truck Center owned the truck Sanchez was driving and had leased it to Sanchez’s employer, according to court documents.

After the crash, Sanchez’s survivors sued Roberts. They claimed the seat belt in the truck failed, which caused the driver’s injuries that ultimately resulted in the death.

Roberts denied the allegations and filed a no-evidence motion to dismiss. In Texas law, a no-evidence summary judgment is filed if the party feels there is no evidence of one or more essential elements of the claim. The respondent only needs to produce evidence that could raise a genuine issue of material fact. In May 2017, the trial court granted Roberts its summary judgment.

Sanchez’s estate appealed the trial court’s decision. In reviewing a trial court’s order granting a no-evidence summary judgment, the appellate court considers the evidence in the light most favorable to the respondent. A no-evidence summary judgment is improperly granted if the respondent produces “more than a scintilla” of evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact.

Sanchez claims she had more than a scintilla of evidence regarding negligence. An expert witness concluded that since post-crash testing showed the seat belt webbing was compromised and indicated chemical exposure, Roberts must have failed to discover a problem during routine maintenance.

However, the appellate court was not convinced with that line of reasoning.

“Sanchez has not pointed to evidence that the seat belt was in a defective condition before the accident, during a period that it should have been detected or repaired by Roberts as part of its obligation to provide routine maintenance to the vehicle,” the court opined. “Sanchez’s expert assumes that the seat belt’s ‘signs of chemical exposure’ would have been visually evident before the accident.”

Essentially, the claim creates a “mere surmise or suspicion,” which is considered “no evidence” in the court of law. Consequently, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s granting of Roberts’ no-evidence motion for summary judgment in October.

Sanchez petitioned to the Texas Supreme Court in November. The high court has not responded to the petition as of publication time.

 

 

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