Plaintiff non-suits Valero minutes before summary judgment hearing

David Yates Apr. 14, 2009, 3:46am

Rather than duke it out, a plaintiff in a personal injury suit has chosen a more peaceful action, opting to non-suit the Valero Energy Corp. just minutes before a summary judgment hearing was set to begin in Judge Milton Shuffield's 136th District Court.

In June 2007, the Record reported on a suit filed by Joel Hernandez, a contracted worker for the Port Arthur Chevron refinery who was riding his bike when he was struck by a plant truck that allegedly ran a stop sign.

Hernandez sued Chevron U.S.A. and its subsidiaries for failing to post bicycle crossing signs, filing a lawsuit in Jefferson County District Court on June 4, 2007.

On May 29, 2008, Hernandez amended his petition for a second time, naming the Premcor Refining Group, doing business as Valero Port Arthur Refinery, as a defendant.

Nearly a year later, on April 13, Hernandez non-suited Valero only minutes before the oil company's summary judgment hearing was set to begin, a court official told the Record.

Court documents show that Valero argued that the accusations against it were too vague and that the company "had no control" over the conditions that caused Hernandez's injury.

The court official said all of the other suit's defendants were still entangled in the litigation.
Case history

According to Hernandez's original petition, the incident occurred on Aug. 4, 2006, during his employment with X-Serv Inc. The company had been contracted by Chevron to perform work at the Port Arthur plant.

"Hernandez was lawfully riding his bicycle through the crosswalk on defendants' premises when a truck ran a stop sign and struck plaintiff, causing him to fall off his bicycle and sustain severe bodily injuries to his leg, knee, back, hip and body generally," the suit said.

Since he was a contracted employee, the suit says Chevron had a duty to protect and safeguard Hernandez. "Plaintiff further alleges the defendants…negligently created and permitted (the dangerous condition to exist)."

The suit faults Chevron with failing to provide a safe place to work, failing to warn him, and failing to provide adequate signs to warn drivers that "persons riding their bicycles may be crossing in the crosswalk."

Hernandez is suing for past and future medical expenses, physical pain and mental anguish.

He is demanding a trial by jury, and is represented by attorney Barry Bennett of the Eddins & Bennett law firm.

Valero was represented in part by Michael Eaves, a managing partner in the Calvert Eaves Clarke & Stelly law firm.

Case No. D179-436

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