Houston Court of Appeals Affirms Jury Verdict for Family of Deceased Worker

On Wednesday, January 20, 2011, the First Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed a jury verdict in favor of the widow, infant child, and father of a worker who was killed when a garbage truck backed over him. The case is entitled Republic Waste Services of Texas, Ltd., et al. v. Martinez, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, no pet.).
In this case, brought on behalf of the worker’s family by our attorneys, the employee was a young man who worked on a garbage truck for Republic Waste. On a cold, damp day, while he was going to pick up a garbage can, the truck backed over and killed him. Republic Waste did not provide workers’ compensation benefits to its employees, so the firm filed suit based upon the negligence of Republic Waste and its driver.
At trial, Republic Waste wanted to offer evidence that the worker was undocumented. Republic Waste has hired numerous undocumented workers, and in fact was raided by ICE a couple of weeks after the incident. The trial court determined that the evidence Republic Waste wanted to offer was inadmissible. The jury, after hearing the case and considering it carefully, returned a verdict for the family. So, Republic Waste appealed.
The Court of Appeals ruled that, while the evidence offered by Republic Waste about the ICE raid might have some relevance, it was speculative whether the worker would have been caught and deported, and further that the probative value of the evidence was outweighed by the potential for prejudice. The Court ruled that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion when he refused to let Republic Waste offer prejudicial evidence. Based upon this, the Court upheld the jury’s verdict.