DART is “common carrier” and loses bus injury case

Dallas Area Rapid Transit v. Morris, David, 05-12-01133-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, May 29, 2014)

This is an appeal from a jury award to the Plaintiff for $303,734.32 for injuries sustained while riding a bus driven by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (“DART”). The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment.

While boarding a bus, Morris was thrown forward when the bus unexpectedly lurched breaking his leg in three places. DART asserted the bus never lurched or moved and Morris simply lost his footing.  A jury found for Morris and DART appealed the final judgment.

First the court held that DART is a “common carrier” so the standard of care under the law is the “high degree of care” standard of which the jury was instructed. This express holding is something new for transit entities. And while Morris did not initially plead the higher standard of care, the court found no surprise so allowed the jury instruction to stand. Next, the court determined that without evidence that a “nonhuman condition” was a proximate cause, submission of an unavoidable accident instruction is “generally improper.”  No such evidence was presented in this case. The court next determined it was proper to preclude DART from questioning Morris on a stroke he had several years before since there was nothing connecting the stroke and the bus accident. Further, since DART violated the court’s limine order by mentioning the stroke during opening (which Morriss objected and jury was instructed to disregard) the preclusion was also proper.  Further DART did not establish the exclusion probably caused an improper judgment. Finally, DART did not establish that improper arguments by Morris’s counsel lead to an improper judgment. All of DARTS points of error are overruled and the verdict is affirmed.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Justice FitzGerald, Justice Fillmore, and Justice Evans.  Opinion by Justice Fillmore. The attorney listed for DART is Harold R. Mckeever Junior.  The attorneys listed for Moris are Rachel Varughese, Scott M. Keller, and Hardin R. Ramey