HOUSTON – Texas trial and appellate firm Wright & Close LLP secured a major victory when a Texas appellate court overturned a $43.5 million jury verdict and clarified what evidence and intent are required to allow a worker injured on the job to be exempted from the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Texas 14th Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a company supervisor who ordered workers to push hard to free an auger could not have specifically known that pieces of the machinery would break away and fall behind a barricade to injure worker Tyler Lee, whose crushed leg had to be amputated above the knee. The court reversed and rendered the Brazoria County jury verdict and trial court judgment.
“In its very thorough opinion, the appellate court found that ‘intentional injury’ requires an intent to injure a particular person or a small class of people, not just a general knowledge that an activity is dangerous. Many plaintiffs attempt this way around the Workers’ Compensation Act, and this case should bring some clarity to the law,” said Mr. Wright.
The court found that a defendant has to be substantially certain a worker could be injured in a specific way for the parameters of the act to be surpassed. Recovery for injuries beyond the Workers’ Compensation Act is not permitted if the actor simply knowingly permits a hazardous work condition, orders performance of an extremely dangerous job, or even willfully violates a safety statute, according to the opinion.
The case is Berkel & Company Contractors, Inc., v. Tyler Lee and Leigh Anne Lee, No. 14-15-00787-CV.
Wright & Close LLP is a Houston-based civil trial and appellate firm handling complex trial and appeals work for clients across Texas. Our lawyers have a track record for achieving favorable resolutions in cases involving catastrophic personal injury, insurance coverage, intellectual property, oil and gas, product defects, commercial disputes, arbitration and mediation, and trade secrets, among others. We also assist with pretrial motions, special evidence problems, challenges to expert witnesses, and the critical work on the court’s charge to the jury.