Mediation Resolves Lawsuit
January 2, 2010 Houston, Tx: On October 21, 2007, Darian Gonzalez was operating his motorcycle eastbound on Hufsmith when he encountered traffic that was forced to stop due to a road block created by a laborer working for James Spurlin and his business, Saddlebrook Ranch, LLC. Mr. Gonzalez was unable to avoid contacting a vehicle that had unexpectedly stopped because of the roadblock, was thrown from his motorcycle, and was struck by an oncoming car. He sustained serious injuries from which he died later that day.
A negligence cause of action was brought by Mr. Gonzalez's widow and mother against the defendants in connection with cleanup work following roadside tree-trimming activities conducted by the laborer hired by Mr. Spurlin. Plaintiffs alleged that on the day of the incident, the laborer had, without proper authorization or necessity, placed traffic control devices specifically traffic cones in the roadway. Plaintiffs contended that the laborer had been loading trimmed branches from trees lining the roadway and had been operating a tractor in the area, including the public right of way for Hufsmith. By the time Harris County Sheriff's Office investigators arrived at the crash scene, the laborer had altered the scene. No cones were on the pavement at that point, and the tractor had been moved away from the scene. With the help of witnesses to the crash, the cones were once again placed into the configuration that existed at the time of the crash, whereupon the Sheriff's Department took photographs for the record.
It was not disputed that the laborer was doing the trimming and cleanup work for and at the direction of James Spurlin and Saddlebrook Ranch, L.L.C., and Mr. Spurlin testified that he specifically asked the laborer to use the traffic cones. Regardless of the exact placement of the cones, Plaintiffs alleged that placing the cones in this instance constituted negligence pursuant to Section 544.006 of the Texas Transportation Code, which prohibits the placement of unauthorized traffic control devices. Lastly, Plaintiffs alleged that the defendants failed to use properly and adequately experienced or trained persons to accomplish the roadside work in question and failed to supervise the work. Specifically, Mr. Spurlin had hired the laborer in question upon referral from another day laborer he had used, and he provided the laborer with no written instructions or schedule in connection with the work that was to be performed.
The case was settled with defendants at mediation.
Rob Ammons is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, in addition to being Board Certified in Civil Law by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Rob Ammons' law practice, The Ammons Law Firm is located in Houston, Texas.