Port Arthur loses appeal over cause of employee's injuries

David Yates Oct. 3, 2011, 11:00am

Last August, a Jefferson County jury found benefits paid by the city of Port Arthur to one of its employees were not for injuries suffered in an automobile collision as the employee claimed.

On Sept. 29 the Ninth Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the lower court's ruling, denying the city's argument that the jury verdict is contrary to the weight and preponderance of the evidence.

The Ninth Court's opinion, authored by Justice Hollis Horton, found that the "jury's verdict is not so contrary to the overwhelming weight and preponderance of the evidence that the jury's verdict is clearly wrong and unjust."

The city of Port Arthur claimed employee Clint Tanner was injured when a truck in which he was a passenger was rear-ended by a pickup driven by Margaret Brown.

Seeking to recover more than $34,000 in medical and indemnity benefits, the city sued Brown, a Port Arthur resident, in August 2008, alleging she negligently rear-ended Tanner.

Tanner, an equipment operator for the city, was a passenger in a vehicle stopped at a red light near the intersection of 7th Street and U.S. Highway 69, when Brown allegedly "failed to properly control her speed and struck the rear of the vehicle," court papers say.

Tanner, allegedly injured in the incident, received worker's compensation benefits paid for by the city. Court records state Tanner received $21,204 in medical benefits and $13,551 in indemnity benefits.

In its suit, the city sought to recoup the $34,756 in monies paid for worker's comp benefits, plus interest.

On Aug. 18, 2010, jurors found that Tanner's injuries were not caused by the automobile collision. No damages were awarded.

"We hold that the evidence admitted before the jury presented fact issues, the trial judge did not err in submitting the case to the jury, nor did the trial judge err in denying the City's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict," Horton wrote in the court's opinion.

The city is represented in part by Houston attorney Williams Helfand of the Chamberlain, Hrdlicka, White, Williams & Martin law firm.

Brown is represented by Beaumont attorney Richard Hatfield.

Case No. D182-314

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