Arnold & Placek, P.C. Prevails on Summary Judgment Regarding Insurance Coverage for Pre-Natal Injuries, in Case of First Impression for Texas

Written by A&P News on March 20th, 2018. Posted in Employer's Liability, News

Arnold & Placek, P.C. Prevails on Summary Judgment Regarding Insurance Coverage for Pre-Natal Injuries, in Case of First Impression for Texas

Judge Gray Miller for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division, recently ruled for Arnold & Placek, P.C. on cross-motions for summary judgment concerning an insurance coverage dispute over a pre-natal injury. A pregnant employee, while working for a group home for disabled children, was struck in the stomach. She later sued the group home in Texas state court on behalf of her child, who was born prematurely with mental and physical injuries. While the employers’ liability carrier assumed defense of the group home in the underlying lawsuit, the group home’s commercial general liability carrier denied both defense and indemnity. On cross-motions for summary judgment, Arnold & Placek P.C., on behalf of the employers’ liability carrier, argued that the general liability carrier shared a duty to defend because the child was alleged to suffer an injury, in part, that was not a result of any injury to the parent-employee. The court granted the employers’ liability carrier’s motion and denied the general liability carrier’s motion, holding that the general liability carrier had a duty to share in the defense of the group home in the underlying lawsuit.

This is the first written opinion in Texas addressing insurance coverage of pre-natal injuries sustained while the parent-employee was in the course of their employment. The court’s opinion can be found at https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/texas/txsdce/4:2017cv00886/1419773/28/.

Arnold & Placek P.C. partner R. Scott Placek represented the employers liability carrier in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, with briefing on the cross-motions for summary judgment also worked on by senior counsel Scott K. Arnold and associate Jonathan Chaltain.

Arnold & Placek, P.C. wins summary judgment and affirmance on appeal in wrongful death case applying doctrine of issue preclusion.

Written by A&P News on February 1st, 2018. Posted in Appeals, Employer's Liability

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston, Texas today affirmed summary judgment for an employer that was the defendant in a wrongful death suit arising from a tank explosion. The decease employee was not formally married, but two women each claimed to be his common-law spouse and filed claims for workers’ compensation death benefits. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation held a hearing and determined that no common-law marriage existed. One of the women then filed a wrongful death suit against the employer seeking punitive damages as the surviving spouse. The trial court granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment, which the court of appeals affirmed, because the same issue that was dispositive of plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim—that no common-law marriage existed—was also dispositive of plaintiff’s standing to sue for wrongful death as the surviving spouse. The court of appeals also affirmed summary judgment on the “survival claim” that plaintiff brought as the administrator of the estate, because workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for any compensable death, and a survival claim is nothing more than the deceased employee’s claim for personal injury damages.

This is the first case in Texas applying the doctrine of issue preclusion (collateral estoppel) to a final decision by the Division of Workers’ Compensation on the question of whether a common-law marriage existed prior to an employee’s death. The case is In re Estate of Howard, No. 14-16-00676-CV, __ S.W.3d __ (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] Feb. 1, 2018).

Arnold & Placek, P.C. partners Scott Placek and Matthew Foerster represented the employer in the trial court and in the court of appeals.