Ninth Court reverses $20K settlement, remands bus collision suit

David Yates Feb. 5, 2015, 3:56pm


Not happy with her $20,000 settlement, Irma Barragan, who sued the Nederland Independent School District following a collision with a bus, appealed.

On Thursday, the Ninth Court of Appeals reversed the order enforcing the settlement and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In 2012, Barragan brought suit in Jefferson County against NISD and its employee – a bus driver who allegedly made an improper left turn and struck Barragan, inflicting damages on her in excess of $100,000, court records show.

On Sept. 25, 2012, Barragan’s former attorney, Cynthia Frederick, signed and e-filed a letter agreeing to settle the claim for $20,000. However, the letter did not contain Barragan’s signature.

Two days later, Barragan filed a motion to substitute Paul Ferguson of the Provost Umphrey Law Firm as her attorney, citing as grounds Frederick’s failure to communicate as the reason.

The following day, NISD filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, asserting the letter signed by Frederick constituted “an enforceable settlement agreement in accordance with Rule 11 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure,” court records state.

On Nov. 27, 2012, Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd District Court, granted NISD’s motion, but declined to state any factual findings or order Barragan to take any particular action.

Floyd also awarded NISD more than $5,000 in court costs and attorney’s fees, plus additional fees if Barragan opted to appeal his finding.

“The trial court (Floyd) did not resolve any factual issues, nor did it determine that no genuine issues of material fact exist,” states the Ninth Court’s opinion, authored by Justice Charles Kreger.

“We conclude that the trial court erred by adjudicating the validity of the Rule 11 agreement and dismissing Barragan’s case with prejudice without either following proper procedures for a final pretrial disposition or conducting a bench trial.”

Justices reversed Floyd’s order granting NISD’s motion and awarding of attorney’s fees, remanding the cause for further proceedings.

Trial case No. E191-975

Appeals case No. 09-13-00350-CV

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