Texas Supreme Court Denies TxDOT’s Challenge of Wenholz | Dow Verdict
The case of Padron, et al v. Ford Motor Company and the Texas Department of Transportation involved a Ford 250 rollover/roof crush case against Ford and an unsafe roadway case against TxDOT. The case arose from a single car accident which occurred on May 8, 2016, near the 15800 block of US Highway 290 East in Manor, Texas.
On that date, Alfonso Lopez was driving his 2008 Ford F-250 Super Duty Crew Cab on Highway 290. Along with him rode his father Jose Lopez, his mother Leonor Padron, his brother Antonio Lopez, and his girlfriend Marisol Aguirre. The family was driving to The Oasis restaurant on Lake Travis to celebrate Mother’s Day. There was a slight rain, and the roadway became wet. Just west of Manor, Alfonso suddenly lost control of his truck. The stretch of highway in this area was in poor condition. It was worn down, very slick, and especially dangerous in wet conditions. Alfonso’s truck slid off the highway into the median, where it flipped and came to rest upside down. The entire cab of the truck was crushed. Alfonso and his father, who were both in the front seat, did not survive. The backseat passengers were seriously injured.
Wenholz | Dow P.C. attorneys Dave Wenholz, Sean Swords, and Luke Dow sued Ford under a product defect theory, and TxDOT under premises liability theory for its unsafe roadway. The claim against Ford was settled for a confidential amount. The case against TxDOT proceeded to trial in November 2018. At trial, the jury saw photos of the road’s worn, slick, and dangerous condition. The jury heard testimony about other recent accidents on the same stretch of highway where vehicles had slid off the road. And the jury heard testimony that TxDOT was warned about both the road’s dangerous condition and the prior accidents, yet failed to make adequate repair. The jury ultimately returned a verdict of $5,232,994.00 against TxDOT. But because TxDOT is a state agency, Texas law required the jury’s verdict to be capped at $500,000.00.
Shortly after trial, TxDOT filed an appeal. In December of 2019, the Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. The Court of Appeals concluded the jury rationally determined the stretch of highway was unreasonably dangerous, and that TxDOT knew about that unreasonably dangerous condition before the accident occurred. TxDOT then petitioned the Texas Supreme Court to reconsider the Texas Court of Appeals decision. The Texas Supreme Court denied TxDOT’s petition for review, effectively ending the litigation in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Court of Appeal’s decision is Tex. Dep’t of Transp. v. Padron, 591 S.W.3d 684 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2019, pet. denied).