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The attorneys at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P., have a long and solid record in the defense of insurance claims including products liability, labor and employment law, trucking defense, insurance defense, professional negligence, toxic torts , and other corporate liability defense.

Recent significant cases the firm has handled include:

Union Pacific Railroad Company and Ezra Alderman Ranches, Inc. v Elsa Prado, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of Rolando Prado, Jr., Deceased, and as Next Friend of A.P., Minor; Elizabeth Prado; Rolando Prado; and Maria Prado

Partner Norton A. “Trey” Colvin, III of COLVIN, SAENZ, RODRIGUEZ & KENNAMER, L.L.P., along with Kent Rutter and Christina Crozier of HAYNES AND BOONE, L.L.P.; and John W. Proctor of BROWN, PROCTOR & HOWELL, L.L.P; secure unanimous opinion from the Supreme Court of Texas in Union Pacific Ry. Co. v. Prado, No. 22-0431, 2024 WL 736035 (Tex. Feb. 23, 2024).

This case arose from a railroad crossing collision, where Rolando Prado, Jr., drove a pick-up truck into the path of a locomotive operated by Union Pacific Railroad Company. Prior to the collision, Mr. Prado ignored a posted Private Railroad Cross Buck and Stop sign and entered the railroad crossing via a rolling stop. As Union Pacific’s conductor saw Prado’s truck approach the private crossing, they blew the train’s horn twice for several seconds before colliding with and unfortunately killing Mr. Prado.

Following Prado’s death, Prado’s widow, children, and parents sued Union Pacific for negligence, negligence per se, and gross negligence in the 81st Judicial District Court of La Salle County, Texas. Specifically, the Prados asserted Union Pacific“fail[ed] to adequately warn drivers of the crossing, which was extra hazardous in nature.” Following an unfavorable summary judgment ruling from the district court, the Prados appealed to the Court of Appeals for the Fourth District of Texas, which reversed the trial court’s order in part, holding and reasoning a fact issue existed as to whether the private crossing was extra-hazardous. Consequently, Union Pacific filed a Petition for Review with the Supreme Court of Texas, which the Court granted. The Court requested briefing on the merits and afford oral arguments, which occurred in Austin, Texas on November 29, 2023.

Before the Court, Union Pacific argued the private crossing was not extra-hazardous as a matter of law. Specifically, Union Pacific argued the private crossing was accompanied by a visible crossbuck and stop sign, which were warnings that a reasonably prudent person would follow; a reasonably prudent person exercising ordinary care could have seen the train, heard its horn, and avoided the accident; and a railroad crossing cannot be extra-hazardous when it is only hazardous to those who fail to stop at a clearly visible stop sign, such as Mr. Prado.

Within its unanimous opinion, the Court concluded “the Prados’ evidence [was] legally insufficient to support a finding the [private] crossing was extra-hazardous at the time of Prado’s accident.” The crux of the Court’s reasoning was that the private crossing “contained a warning device in addition to a crossbuck sign—a stop sign.” Applying the Texas Transportation Code, the Court recognized crossings with crossbucks require a driver to “yield” to trains in hazardous proximity, but stop signs mandate that a driver “shall stop,” irrespective if the driver could safely pass the crossing, and it is presumed drivers will obey the law.

Additionally, the Court was unpersuaded by the Prados’ experts, and reasoned their arguments failed to raise a fact issue that a reasonably prudent driver exercising reasonable care could not see the posted signage in time to stop at the crossing. Finally, the Court held because the crossbuck and stop signs were “sufficient warnings for an ordinarily dangerous crossing as a matter of law, the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s summary judgement in Union Pacific’s favor.”

Partner Jaime A. Saenz, along with Francis J. Grey, Jr. with Ricci Tyrrell Johnson & Grey, defended Hyster-Yale Group, Inc. in a product liability lawsuit filed in the 389th District Court in Hidalgo County, Texas.

The lawsuit arose from an accident at a warehouse in which the Plaintiff Christopher Zieske was operating a Yale Model A295 stand-up reach lift truck. The Plaintiff Zieske stepped off the lift truck when his left foot was crushed between the lift truck and pallet rack support column. The injury later necessitated a below the knee amputation. The Plaintiff claimed the Yale Model A295 stand-up reach lift truck was defectively designed and that several safer alternative designs would have prevented the left foot injury. Jury selection began on August 30, 2023. The trial concluded on September 12, 2023. The Hidalgo County jury found that the Yale Model A295 stand-up reach lift truck was defective by design and the jury also found the Plaintiff Zieske negligent. The Hidalgo County jury apportioned responsibility at 50% to Hyster-Yale Group, Inc. and 50% to the Plaintiff Zieske. Damages were awarded in the total amount of $17,500,000. The Judgment was entered for $8,750,000, plus pre-judgment interest in the amount of $1,833,904.11. Hyster-Yale Group, Inc. has appealed the case to the 13th Court of Appeals. The appeal is pending.

Ron Mills and Julie Mills v. Wal-Mart Transportation, LLC; In the 365th District Court of Maverick County, Texas, Judge Amado J. Abascal Presiding

The lawsuit proceeded to jury trial in the historic courthouse in Eagle Pass, Maverick County, Texas on February 27, 2023. Partner Jaime A. Saenz and partner Omar A. Saenz represented Wal-Mart Transportation, Inc. (“Walmart”) and its employee driver Mr. Jesus Monsivais, a hometown local of Eagle Pass, Texas. Plaintiffs were represented by Mr. Frank Guerra and Mr. Jorge Mares of the law of firm of Watts Guerra LLP. The case arose from a vehicle tire collision on January 27, 2021, after the front driver side steering tire of Walmart’s tractor trailer operated by Mr. Monsivais separated from its wheel while traveling westbound on Interstate 10 in Boerne, Texas. The tire crossed the median and struck Plaintiffs’ 2018 Ford Expedition traveling in the opposite direction on Interstate 10. The tire was never recovered after the accident. Plaintiffs alleged neck and back injuries and received future cervical spine surgical recommendations from Plaintiffs’ treating orthopedic surgeon Dr. Frank Kuwamura that totaled $626,088. Plaintiffs contended that Walmart failed to properly monitor the wheel’s tire pressure and further argued the legal principle of Res Ipsa Loquitur, that the jury may infer negligence against Walmart if they found that the tire was within Walmart’s exclusive control and the accident would not have occurred without negligence. After a three-day trial, Plaintiffs asked the jury to return a verdict against Walmart and award in excess of $2,500,000 in damages. Walmart asserted that the tire did not separate from its wheel due to any negligence on behalf of Walmart based on Mr. Monsivais’s testimony regarding his appropriate driving actions at the time of the accident and Walmart’s vehicle maintenance records introduced as evidence during trial. On March 1, 2023, the jury rendered a defense verdict, finding no negligence on the part of Walmart.

Rigoberto Alaniz v. First Cash, Inc.; Matter in Arbitration before the Arbitrator J. Scott McLain

This arbitration case arose from a step stool incident that occurred on November 14, 2018 at First Cash No. 94 located in Donna, Hidalgo County, Texas. Arbitration proceeded on February 20, 2023 at the McAllen Mediation Center in McAllen, Hidalgo County, Texas before Arbitrator Scott McLain. Partner Jaime A. Saenz and partner Omar A. Saenz represented First Cash, Inc. (“First Cash”), and Plaintiff was represented at Arbitration by Mr. Clayton Walker Morgan of Clayton Walker Morgan Law and Mr. Candelario Trevino. Plaintiff Rigoberto Alaniz was employed as a pawnbroker for First Cash at the time of the incident and sustained a complex left ankle fracture necessitating immediate, emergency surgery after falling off a step stool while attempting to hang a bicycle on a ceiling hook using the step stool. Plaintiff was off from work for over a year. Plaintiff asserted at Arbitration that First Cash knew that the subject step stool was defective and that Plaintiff need only prove one percent negligence against First Cash, as a worker’s compensation non-subscriber, and further contended that Plaintiff would require future medical care totaling $636,769.19. First Cash asserted that Plaintiff had used the subject step stool many times before the incident and that the incident was not caused by any issue or problem with the step stool. Plaintiff asked the Arbitrator for an award of $6.59 Million dollars which included $4.5 Million dollars in alleged punitive damages. The Arbitrator did not award punitive damages but awarded the Plaintiff a total of $603,300.11 in damages on March 27, 2023.

Matthew Todd Gillespie v. Indira Garcia; MIG Campanil Properties, LLC; TPI Sunrise Palms, LLC; and Tarantino Properties, Inc. — Cause No. 2020-DCL-03752

This lawsuit was tried to a jury in Cameron County, Texas the week of September 26, 2022.  The case arose out of a motor vehicle accident between Plaintiff Matthew Todd Gillespie (“Plaintiff”) and Co-Defendant Indira Garcia.  The accident occurred at an intersection located at a shopping plaza parking lot owned and managed by MIG Campanil Properties, LLC, TPI Sunrise Palms, LLC, and Tarantino Properties, Inc (“premises Defendants”).  Plaintiff alleged that the parking lot intersection posed an unreasonable risk of harm because it did not include a traffic control device.  Partner Jaime A. Saenz and associate Luis R. Solis represented the premises Defendants.  The defense focused on Plaintiff’s own negligence as he approached the parking lot intersection in his motorcycle and presented expert testimony that no traffic control device was required at the subject parking lot intersection.  The defense also asserted that Plaintiff could not carry his burden as to his premises liability claims without expert testimony.  After a three-day trial, the jury found that the premises Defendants had been responsible and that Plaintiff had been contributorily negligent, reducing his total award of damages against the premises Defendants to $649,400.00. The premises Defendants promptly filed an appeal to the Thirteenth Court of Appeals.  Appellate review is pending.

Other Significant Cases the Firm Has Handled:

For a consultation with a lawyer at Colvin, Saenz, Rodriguez & Kennamer L.L.P., call 956-542-7441, or contact us online.

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