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Ruling in case of workplace fatality involving company truck reversed

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A man killed while driving to work in a company truck may have not been in the course and scope of his employment, an appeals court in Texas ruled Wednesday, remanding the issue back to a trial court to weigh the facts.

Juan De Los Santos was employed by Ram Production Services Inc. when he was killed while driving from his residence to the ranch where he was assigned to work. His wife, Noela De Los Santos, sought judicial review of the Texas Department of Insurance’s Division of Workers’ Compensation appeals panel’s decision upholding a hearing officer’s decision that the was not in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, according to documents in American Home Assurance Co. v. Noela De Los Santos, filed in the Court of Appeals of Texas in San Antonio.

After the parties filed competing motions for summary judgment, the trial court denied Ram Production’s insurer’s motion, concluding “as a matter of law that Juan was in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident,” according to documents.

American Home Assurance Co., Ram Production’s workers comp insurer, appealed the trial court’s judgment, asking, “Was the truck (Juan) was driving at the time of the accident gratuitously furnished by (Ram Production) rendering him outside the course and scope of his employment?”

In reversing the trial court’s judgment and remanding the cause to the trial court for further proceedings, the appeals court concluded that American Home “raised a genuine issue of material fact on whether the truck was merely gratuitously provided as an accommodation, thereby establishing Juan’s travel in the truck did not originate in Ram Production’s business” and that the trial court was presented with conflicting affidavits supporting opposite findings.

“Because Noela and American Home each raised genuine issues of material fact, neither party was entitled to judgment as a matter of law, and the trial court erred in granting Noela’s motion,” the ruling states.





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