DART Bus Injuries
Imagine yourself on a crowded bus at the end of the day. You are tired and worn out from a long day of work, when suddenly, the bus lurches to a halt and you are thrown forward into the wall, injuring yourself severely and keeping you out of work for the foreseeable future. Can you sue the bus company? This question was recently answered by the Dallas Court of Appeals in DART v. MORRIS.
In this case, Mr. Morris was injured when a DART bus lurched forward immediately after he boarded the vehicle. This sudden movement caused Mr. Morris to suffer a serious leg injury and miss around 200 hours of work. Mr. Morris also suffered a stroke, which he claimed resulted from the bus injury. Mr. Morris sued DART for negligence and received an award to cover his medical expenses, pain and suffering, and loss of earning capacity. DART appealed, claiming the trial court erred by holding DART to a “high degree of care;” refusing to include a jury instruction on unavoidable accident; excluding evidence about Mr. Morris’ past medical history; and permitting an improper jury instruction.Do DART Drivers Require a “high degree of care” Standard?
Even though DART is not technically a common carrier under Texas law, several Texas courts have applied the “high degree of care” standard for DART. Basically, this means that DART must use a standard of caution that a very cautious, prudent and competent man under the same circumstances would use. DART argued that the trial court erred by classifying it as a common carrier, but the court rejected that argument because DART was carrying passengers for profit and is currently in the business of carrying passengers for the purpose of raising funds, therefore, DART should be held to a “high degree of care” standard.Was this an Unavoidable Accident Under Texas law?
Texas law defines an unavoidable accident as an “event not proximately caused by the negligence of any party to it.” In layman’s terms, it is an accident where no party is to blame. Generally, courts give this instruction when a nonhuman element such as fog, ice, sleet, etc. causes the accident. In the Morris case, both parties admitted to varying degrees of negligence, so this issue was raised incorrectly.Should the Court Have Allowed the Past Medical History of Mr. Morris?
DART offered some evidence that Mr. Morris had a history of weakness in his right side including an abnormal gait. DART sought to get this evidence entered into court to show that Mr. Morris was not stable when he suffered his accident. All evidence offered, including Mr. Morris’ testimony, showed that there were no signs of any effects from the stroke when Mr. Morris suffered his leg injury. Because the stroke occurred several years before the bus injury, the court refused to allow DART to bring it up during trial.Did Mr. Morris’ Counsel Make Improper Jury Arguments?
Under Texas law, improper jury arguments are those that tend to “ strike at the court’s impartiality, equality, and fairness.” In this case, DART argues that counsel for the plaintiff made improper statements about DART’s actions during the investigation. Specifically, counsel asked the jury to “send a message to DART” for their negligence. Under Texas law, a party must show that these statements are so damaging that the court could not get rid of the effects of the statements. In this case, DART did not show this level of harm and therefore, the court ruled against them on this final issue.
If you have been injured in a public transport accident, call Guest and Gray Law Firm’s defense team today. Guest and Gray Law Firm is a full service civil and criminal defense law firm serving the entire DFW Metroplex including Dallas, Kaufman, Rockwall and surrounding counties. Our main office is in Forney, Texas where we have served the community since 1967. We also have office locations in Rockwall and Plano, Texas. Our team of lawyers is ready to help with any concern you might have involving an injury suffered on public transport.