BEAUMONT - The Ninth Court Appeals recently granted a motion to stay a wrongful death lawsuit brought against Entergy Arkansas while justices examine a special appearance issue in the case.
Oregon residents Dennis and Cathy Charters filed two respective lawsuits over the death of their son, Dennis Wade Charters, in Jefferson County District Court.
Wade, an electrical lineman from Idaho, died of electrocution after allegedly being lowered onto an Arkansas electrical tower via helicopter and coming into contact with live wires while working for Source Helicopters.
The first suit, filed Sept. 11, 2014, named Source, Rogers Helicopters and Lou Woodward as defendants.
The second suit, filed a year later in September 2015, named Entergy Texas, Entergy Services and Entergy Arkansas as defendants.
Entergy owned the tower and had approved the work, according to the lawsuit.
Court records show the two cases were consolidated.
On June 3 Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, issued an order denying Entergy Arkansas’ special appearance.
The term “special appearance” describes a civil defendant's appearance in the court of another state solely to dispute the personal jurisdiction of the court over the out-of-state defendant.
Entergy Arkansas appealed the ruling on June 9, arguing it proved the company lacked minimum contacts with Texas.
“The facts in this case are undisputed,” states an appellate brief. “Entergy Arkansas, Inc. is an Arkansas corporation with its principal place of business in Arkansas.
“It has no operations, employees, property, assets or business in Texas. It conducts no operations in Texas. The underlying wrongful death lawsuit was brought by Oregon citizens, and arises out of the death of an Idaho citizen while working in Arkansas. The work he was conducting at the time of his death was being done pursuant to a contract between Entergy Arkansas and a California corporation.
“Despite all of this, the trial court denied Entergy Arkansas’ Special Appearance, concluding the exercise of personal jurisdiction is warranted despite Entergy Arkansas’ complete lack of contacts with Texas. The trial court’s order violates due process, however, and should be reversed.”
On July 21 the Ninth Court issued an order to stay the case
“When an appeal from an interlocutory order is perfected, we may make such orders as are necessary to preserve the parties’ rights until disposition of the appeal,” the order states. “After reviewing the motion and the response, we find that temporary orders are necessary to preserve the parties’ rights until disposition of the appeal.”
Entergy Arkansas argues the case belongs in Arkansas.
Oral arguments are requested.
Entergy Arkansas is represented by Cunningham and Swaim attorneys Steven D. Sanfelippo, Rebecca Solomon and G. Don Swaim
The Charters are represented by Janie L. Jordan, Richard Warren Mithoff, and Warner V. Hocker of Mithoff Law in Houston, and by Gilbert I. Low of Orgain Bell & Tucker LLP in Beaumont.
Trial court case No. B-196107
Appeals case No. 09-16-00203