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Exclusive remedy bars family from suing in truck driver’s death

tanker truck

The family of an “overworked” truck driver who was killed after his 18-wheeler veered off the road in Texas cannot sue his employer because the family could not prove the company knew the accident could occur, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled Friday.

Fabian Escobedo worked as a driver for Mo-Vac Service Co. Inc., a trucking and warehousing company serving the oil patch from several Texas cities, spending 12 years hauling liquids to and from drilling sites in 18-wheeler tanker trucks. He was killed on May 30, 2012, when his rig ran off the highway and rolled over at 3 a.m. while he was on his way back to the company’s warehouse in Dilley, Texas; his family later filed suit, claiming that “fatigue from being forced to work grueling hours” caused his death, according to documents in Mo-Vac Service Company, Inc. v. Primitivo Escobedo, San Juanita Escobedo, and Martha Escobedo, et. al., filed in Austin.

Because Mo-Vac is a subscriber to the Texas workers compensation system the lawsuit “can succeed only by proving that Mo-Vac intentionally caused Escobedo's accident in the sense that it believed the accident was ‘substantially certain to result’ from his being overworked,” the ruling states.

A trial court granted Mo-Vac's no-evidence motion for summary judgment and an appeals court reversed and remanded, concluding that whether Mo-Vac believed its conduct was substantially certain to cause Mr. Escobedo's death remained an issue of fact, according to documents.  

While the state Supreme Court wrote “(t)here is evidence that Mo-Vac forced Escobedo to work excessive hours” – citing affidavits from coworkers and evidence that he worked 17 hours a day on average – the plaintiffs “do not provide any specific evidence that Mo-Vac believed that Escobedo's accident was substantially certain” and thus the suit is barred by exclusive remedy in state workers comp law.