Houston Attorneys Secure Total Defense Jury Verdict
Jul 11, 2023
Houston partners Zandra Foley and Daniel O’Neil obtained a unanimous defense jury verdict in less than two hours of deliberation with a finding of no negligence on Defendant’s part and zero damages.
Contracted Maintenance Completed With No Notice of Issues
The Defendant leased a fleet of vehicles including several yard mules, a truck specifically designed for moving containers and semi-trailers, to a logistics company for use at its facility. Under the contract between Defendant and the logistics company, the logistics company was required to report any issues so that they could be addressed. Additionally, the Defendant would perform routine, proactive maintenance (over 100-point inspection) on the truck with the Defendant’s mechanics examining the truck in question about 14 times per year in the five years leading up to the incident.
The logistics company engaged a temporary staffing agency to provide a temporary driver to replace the logistics company’s full-time driver. On the temp driver’s first day on the job he noticed an issue with the air line on the rear of the truck and he reported it to the logistics company, who reported it to the Defendant and our client went out to the logistics company’s facility and repaired the air line the same day. On the temp driver’s second day on the job he slipped on some grease on the passenger-side stairs of the yard mule truck. The driver and the logistics company had never reported the grease to our client. Plaintiff alleged injuries to his knee and claimed he was unable to ever work again.
During trial, Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was negligent because the truck was equipped with onboard automatic greasing system that malfunctioned and was consistently leaking excessive grease onto the stairs over a long period of time. Plaintiff further alleged that the Defendant’s preventative maintenance provided was substandard and its mechanics had little to no knowledge about how to maintain the onboard automatic greasing system and/or failed to provide such maintenance. Defendant denied these allegations and argued that it did not have any notice that there was grease on the truck’s passenger-side stairs. Although Plaintiff’s liability expert testified that Defendant’s preventative maintenance was substandard and pictures of the steps showed signs of prior grease leaks, he testified definitively at trial that the grease appeared after the driver’s pre-trip inspection the morning of the incident, which illustrated no notice to our client.
The Plaintiff, who suffered a torn meniscus as a result of the accident and presented expert testimony that he could no longer work as a truck driver, testified that although he had performed a pre-trip inspection at 5:45 a.m. and that he and a co-worker had gone up and down the passenger-side stairs multiple times that morning, he never saw grease on the steps any time before he slipped at approximately 10:30 am, which further illustrated no notice to our client.
During closing argument, Plaintiff’s counsel asked the jury to award over $3 million in damages which included past and future pain and suffering, mental anguish, and lost earning capacity. Ultimately, after deliberating approximately 90 minutes, the jury determined that Defendant was not negligent.
Partner Andrew Johnson attended trial as appellate counsel and assisted with briefing, strategy, and a three-hour charge conference. One of our Houston summer associates also assisted with voir dire before the summer associate program wrapped up.