Court of Appeals of Texas, Eighth District
Lorenzo Munoz and Roger Franceware, two experienced truck drivers, were transporting a truck from El Paso County to Tennessee for co-appellant Moore Freight Services in 2010. The truck drifted of the road and crashed, killing both. Franceware drove full-time for Moore Freight and drove the truck out of El Paso, but Munoz, a prospective Moore employee, was at the wheel when it crashed. Their manager, co-appellant Charles Strader, assigned them a load a cargo bound for North Carolina to deliver en route to Tennessee. Some evidence suggested he had assigned it on behalf of co-appellant XMEX, a side trucking company he was starting up. Munoz's and Franceware's families sued Moore Freight, Strader, and XMEX for wrongful death. The trial court entered judgment against XMEX, and all three defendants appealed, challenging the jury's finding that each was a proximate cause of the accident. The court found Franceware was an employee of both Moore Freight and XMEX, but held that neither company was vicariously liable for the crash. The court found that Moore Freight could not be held liable for negligent supervision of Strader, finding that "at best" Moore Freight's failure to terminate Strader merely created the conditions that made the fatal accident possible. The court noted that the crash was caused by driver error – either fatigue, distraction, or a similar phenomenon – and that "[b]etter supervision or termination of Strader would have had no effect on the driver's conduct." The court found that Moore Freight's lax screening of Munoz did not contribute to the accident. The evidence showed that Munoz was an experienced driver in good health with no questionable background; thus, the court held that better screening would not have alerted Moore Freight to any potential issues. The court found Moore Freight could not be held liable for Franceware allowing Munoz to drive, because the evidence did not establish whether that directive came from Franceware, Strader, or some other party. The court found that XMEX could not be held accountable for reasons similar to Moore Freight: The company's actions were too remote to affect driver behavior at the time of the crash, and better screening of both drivers would not have aided XMEX. The court also found that Strader was not responsible for the accident through his assignment of the cargo shipment on a tight deadline, because the evidence shows the truck was at the speed limit and therefore was not rushing to meet the deadline, and because the truck would have headed out for Tennessee with or without the cargo. The court reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered a take-nothing judgment against the families.
Moore v. Munoz, El Paso Court of Appeals, Case No. 08-14-00254-CV, 7/26/17.
ANN CRAWFORD MCCLURE, CHIEF JUSTICE