Beaumont judge abused discretion justices find, UPS granted leave to designate responsible parties in civil suit

By David Yates | Feb 13, 2018

BEAUMONT – Seven months before a slated trial, United Parcel Service sought to designate several organizations as responsible third parties in an automobile collision lawsuit. When the request was ruled as untimely, UPS appealed.

BEAUMONT – Seven months before a slated trial, United Parcel Service sought to designate several organizations as responsible third parties in an automobile collision lawsuit. When the request was ruled as untimely, UPS appealed.

On Feb. 8, the Ninth Court of Appeals directed Judge Justin Sanderson, 60th District Court, to vacate the order denying UPS’s motion, court records show.

The litigation stems from a lawsuit brought by Anna Van Hook, who sued UPS over a June 2016 collision allegedly caused by one of the company’s drivers.

Several vehicles were traveling in the southbound lane on U.S. Highway 69 when they were involved in a chain-reaction, rear-end collision. The stretch of highway was apparently suffering from traffic congestion due to a TxDOT lane closure.

Van Hook was driving the lead car when the collision occurred. James Kaiser, who was a passenger in the middle car, was hit first and died from his injuries.

Kaiser’s mother, wife, and minor daughter filed petitions to intervene in Van Hook’s suit, asserting wrongful death and survival claims against UPS and its driver, court records show.

On Oct. 3, UPS filed a request seeking to designate TxDOT, Crabtree Barricade Systems and Hayward Baker as responsible third parties.

The case was originally set to be tried on Dec. 4, but the trial court had signed a new docket control order, vacating the December trial setting and extending discovery deadlines.

The Civil Practice and Remedies Code allows a party to designate a responsible third party if its motion for leave is filed on or before the 60th day before trial.

The trial court ruled that UPS’s request was untimely, since the trial court had signed a pretrial scheduling order requiring third parties to be designated by June 2017, even though the case was now scheduled to be tried in April 2018.

“In conclusion, the record reflects that when the trial court altered its December

2017 docket control order and continued the originally scheduled date for the trial, it should have established a new deadline allowing additional time for designating responsible third parties,” the Ninth Court’s opinion states.

“The trial court’s decision refusing UPS’s and its driver’s request for leave to designate responsible third parties when the court freely amended other deadlines was arbitrary, and constituted a clear abuse of discretion…”

UPS is represented by Douglas Gosda, Esq. and Gregory Schlak, attorneys for the Houston law firm Manning, Gosda & Arredondo.

Beaumont attorney Mark Sparks represents Vank Hook.

The Kaiser plaintiffs are represented by Beaumont attorneys Chip Ferguson and Cody Dishon.

Trial cause No. B-198731

Appeals cause No. 09-18-00002-CV

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