News & Insights

Recent Posts

Covid-19: Assessing the Legal Risk of Infectious Diseases

WSHB Employer Alert: FFCRA and DOL Regulations 4.2.20

Employment Practices Consultation & COVID-19

It’s a No-Win Situation: The Perils Facing Hospitals Due to the Coronavirus

COVID-19 Employer Alert: Summary of the CARES Act

COVID-19: New York Malpractice Law Alert

COVID-19 Employer Alert: Enactment of Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)

WSHB Co-Founder Stephen Henning to Announce the Winner of CLM's 2020 Outside Counsel Professional of the Year Award

WSHB Partner Robert Hellner Shares Mediation Tactics at CLM’s 2020 Annual Conference

Risk Transfer and Contractual Indemnification – Who Gets Left Holding the Bag?

New Developments in Challenging Certificates of Merit — Seeking Dismissal for Failure to Concurrently File Certificate with the Original Petition

Seven Habits that Define a Highly Effective Claims Team

Social Media Do's and Don'ts

Read the Room: Arguments that Work in Court but May Backfire at Mediation

WSHB Partner Kelly Waters Named to NJBIZ's 2020 Best Fifty Women in Business List

WSHB Names Andrew S. Kessler as Managing Partner of the Firm's Philadelphia Office

WSHB Employment Alert: California Law Banning Arbitration Agreements Temporarily on Hold

Sam McDermott on the Dos and Don’ts of Construction Project Termination

Full Disclosure! Insurer Beware: Colorado’s New Automobile Policy Disclosure Law Has Teeth!

Andrew S. Kessler Named Legal Counsel for Northeast Community Center for Behavioral Health

WSHB Elevates Ten Partners to Defined Equity Status

Eleven WSHB Attorneys Elected Into Partnership

Eighteen Attorneys Elected to WSHB Senior Counsel

Supreme Court Allows Suit Over Website Accessibility

Strategies for Defending Legionella and Mold Claims

Residential Revolution

Time Limit Demand Issues Arrive in North Carolina

WSHB Welcomes New Partner Julie A. Weerth to the Firm's New York Office

Temp Agency Absolved of Liability in Hotly Contested Action

Alternative Fee Agreements and Construction Issues: Oil and Water or Perfect Pairing!?

WSHB's Graham Miller Helps Demystify Construction Claims in the Pacific Northwest

WSHB Partner Janice Michaels Named to The Best Lawyers in America© 2020 List

One Bad Apple: Navigating through Sexual Battery and other Intentional Torts

Leading Construction Litigator Cynthia Tari Joins WSHB's Dallas Office

WSHB’s Philadelphia Partner Secures Summary Judgment in Catastrophic Premises Liability Matter

WSHB Welcomes New Partner Andrew Kessler

New Bill In New York Proposed for Signature by Governor Andrew Cuomo is Set To Make Employers "SWEAT"

Renowned Litigator Jason Williams Joins WSHB's Nevada Office

Litigator Richard Young Joins WSHB's Nevada Office

Published Appellate Opinion Upholding Summary Judgment in Favor of Commercial Tenant Against $3.5M Subrogation Suit

17 WSHB Lawyers Honored as 2019's Rising Stars

Arizona Supreme Court Allows Court of Appeals Decision Expanding Defendants' Ability to Enforce Settlements to Stand

WSHB’s Jason Klein Breaks Down the Good, the Sad and the Funny Sides of Claims

Litigating Sexual Battery and Other Intentional Torts: Navigating the One Bad Apple in Medical Negligence

WSHB Partner Michelle Arbitrio to Moderate Panel on Insurance and Risk Management in the Age of Mass Shootings

Girl on Fire: The Price of Pursuing the Truth in the #MeToo World

Pragmatic Issues on Settlement Versus Trial for Legal Malpractice Cases

A Withering Assault

The Natural Progression of Natural Disasters

Nevada’s Governor Signs Chapter 40 Reform Bill

WA Condo Law Changes Hope to Curtail Frivolous Defect Lawsuits and Stimulate Production

WSHB Co-Founder Stephen Henning Steps Into the Spotlight at this Year's West Coast Casualty Seminar

Professional Liability Expert Weighs In On Protecting Your Practice From Opioid Doc Arrest Fallout

Penalties, Punitives, and Granny Cams: The Escalating Lure of Elder Abuse Litigation

Are Structured Settlements Still Relevant

Game Changing Trends Affecting Construction

He's Not My Guy: The Joint-Employer Doctrine

WSHB Case Update: DOL Proposes Increase to Minimum Salary Threshold

WSHB and DWF Announce Exclusive Association

Employment Law Alert: OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard for Managing COVID-19 in the Healthcare Employers and Roadmap for Other High Risk Workplaces

WSHB Achieves RING Certification in its Continued Commitment to DEI

WSHB Expands to New Orleans

"A Double Dose of Power"

Texas: New Act Changes the Commercial Vehicle Litigation Landscape

May 26, 2021

The Texas legislature has passed House Bill 19, a law that will impact lawsuits involving commercial motor vehicles commenced after September 1, 2021. The bill is aimed at controlling what are seen as abusive lawsuits against commercial motor vehicle operators by providing owners and operators an important option of seeking to bifurcate the trial of certain claims involving bodily injury or death involving a commercial motor vehicle. The bill follows a 118% increase in the number of lawsuits involving commercial motor vehicle crashes in Texas over the past eighteen years and dramatic increases in insurance premiums for both large and small commercial motor carriers in recent years. While the bill was originally aimed at providing far more protections for the industry as whole, the current version nevertheless provides critical new procedures all motor carrier operators and their counsel need to consider going forward.

Definition of Commercial Motor Vehicles

The bill defines “commercial motor vehicles” as vehicles being used “for commercial purposes in interstate or intrastate commerce to transport property or passengers . . . .” Ostensibly, the bill applies not only to 18-wheelers, but also to Uber and Lyft vehicles, delivery trucks and any other vehicle being used for commercial purposes. On the other hand, the bill expressly excludes passengers from the definition of “claimant” and thus may not apply to lawsuits by passengers of commercial motor vehicles. Whether courts limit or expand the law’s application based upon these terms and the very claims intended to be governed by the law will be closely monitored issues.

Bifurcation of Civil Trials Involving a Commercial Motor Vehicle

Under the law, an owner or operator may move to bifurcate (or separate) the trial of claims against an employer defendant relating to a commercial motor vehicle accident predicated upon the liability of the employee (i.e., negligent entrustment) and otherwise concerning a demand for both compensatory and exemplary damages into two phases.
The law encourages defendants to move to bifurcate early in the litigation process; the motion to be filed within the later of 120 days after the defendant has filed an answer or within 30 days after a claim subject to bifurcation is filed against the defendant.

During the first phase, the trier of fact will determine liability for and compensatory damages for claims against the employee defendant and any claims against the employer defendant not subject to bifurcation under the law. In the second phase, if liability is found against the employee defendant in the first phase, the trier of fact will determine the liability on the bifurcated claims against the employer defendant and liability for and exemplary damages.

Limits on the Admissibility of Evidence to Establish an Employer’s Liability

Beyond permitting bifurcation of claims at trial, the law also places limits on the admissibility of certain evidence regarding an employer defendant’s liability. For instance, evidence of a defendant’s failure to comply with a regulation or standard is admissible in the first phase of a bifurcated trial only if (a) the evidence tends to prove that failure to comply with the regulation or standard was proximate cause of the bodily injury or death, and (b) the regulation or standard is specific and governs, or is an element of a duty of care applicable to the defendant or the defendant’s equipment. By imposing this standard for admissibility, the legislature is sending a clear message that merely weighing the probative value of a potential violation of a regulation is insufficient to avoid undue prejudice to defendants.

A battle with the plaintiff’s bar to narrow the scope of claims subject to bifurcation are on the rapidly approaching horizon, and the law leaves much to be determined by the courts. Moreover, while important limits are imposed on the admissibility of evidence during the first phase of a trial, the law also carves out a number of exceptions, many of which expressly reference specific regulations under the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 (Pub. L. No. 106-159) and Chapter 644 of the Texas Transportation Code.

Overall, the law provides commercial motor carriers and their counsel a multitude of new procedures and strategic considerations to limit the admissibility of highly prejudicial evidence and causes of action at the time of trial. The bill is anticipated to proceed without substantive amendments through final approval.

Defense counsel should work closely with commercial motor vehicle clients and their partners in the insurance and risk management industries to build strategies for success in this emerging litigation landscape.

 

WSHB provides nationwide litigation and legal services across thirty offices, working with national trucking and commercial motor vehicle industry partners, risk managers and insurers.

Kevin D. Smith is a founding partner of Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP, and lead trial attorney in trucking litigation matters across the United States.

Robert W. Hellner is the managing partner of Dallas office of Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP, and lead for the firm’s employment litigation practice as well as lead attorney on a number of large exposure matters across the State of Texas.

 

PRINT

Privacy Policy      |      Site Map

© 2021 Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required