Sunday, April 6, 2008

2008-04-04 Two Texas Supreme Court Opinions Issued

Supreme Court helps workers comp insurance carrier recover money from family of electrocuted worker who sued (and settled with) third parties responsible for worker's death

"For decades, Texas law has required the first money recovered by an injured worker from a tortfeasor to go to the worker’s compensation carrier, and until the carrier “is paid in full the employee or his representatives have no right to any funds.”[1] In this case, a $4.5 million settlement was structured so the plaintiffs and their attorney got all the funds and the compensation carrier got nothing. The plaintiffs argue this result is harmless because the carrier can sue the defendants (they do not volunteer themselves) to get the money back. That might give the carrier second or third money, but not first money. As the statute guarantees the carrier first money, we reverse."

Texas Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ledbetter, No. 06-0814 (Tex. Apr. 4, 2008)(Brister) (worker's compensation, subrogation rights, minor settlement, ad litem)

TEXAS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY v. PAULA LEDBETTER, REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OFCHARLES WADE LEDBETTER, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS NEXT FRIEND OF DUSTIN WADE LEDBETTER, AMINOR, AND TONJA LEDBETTER AND JAMIE LEDBETTER, INDIVIDUALLY; from Jones County; 11thdistrict (11-05-00098-CV, 192 S.W.3d 912, 06-01-06) 2 petitions; motion for emergency relief from declaratory judgment action dismissed as moot. The Court affirms in part and reverses in part the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to thetrial court. Justice Brister delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Chief Justice Jefferson, Justice Hecht, JusticeO'Neill, Justice Wainwright, Justice Medina, Justice Green, and Justice Willett joined, and in which JusticeJohnson joined as to Parts I through III and Part V.

Court of Appeals Opinion below:
Texas Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ledbetter, No. 11-05-00098-CV, 192 S.W.3d 912 (Tex. App. - Eastland, June 1, 2006, pet filed)

Follow-up per curiam opinion issued in Owens & Minor case, previously decided on certified question from the Fifth Circuit

Ansell Healthcare Products, Inc. v. Owens & Minor, Inc., No. 06-0386 (Tex. Apr. 4, 2008)(per curiam) (product liability, indemnity for litigation costs)

ANSELL HEALTHCARE PRODUCTS, INC. AND BECTON, DICKINSON AND COMPANY v. OWENS &MINOR, INC. AND OWENS & MINOR MEDICAL, INC.; from Bowie County; 6th district (06-04-00136-CV,189 S.W.3d 889, 03-31-06) 2 petitions
Because the court of appeals’ decision conflicts with our holding in Owens & Minor, we reverse its judgment and, without hearing oral argument, remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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