Houston Appeals Court refuses to reduce wrongful death award

During the summer of 2007 an employee of a garbage collection company was killed when he was run over by a garbage truck driven by another employee. The family of the deceased employee filed a wrongful death claim against his employer alleging negligence. The family won the lawsuit and a jury awarded them more than a million dollars in damages, consisting primarily of losses related to the employee’s potential future wages.

The employer appealed, arguing that because he was an undocumented worker, the family should have received only his projected wages in his home country rather the wages he could have expected had he remained in the United States. The First Court of Appeals in Houston upheld the wrongful death award, determining that the possibility of deportation was too speculative to justify a reduction in the award.

The factual basis behind the company’s appeal in this case was that the employee would have likely been deported in a raid of the company by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials that took place two weeks after the employee was killed by the truck.

Attorneys for the employer are considering an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, according to a report in the Houston Chronicle. The employer’s attorneys feel that this decision opens the door for consideration of the immigration status of an employee that has been killed, even though the court in this case found that possibility of deportation was too speculative.

An attorney for the family believes that this case is important because it stands for the proposition that immigration status is a separate issue in cases alleging employer negligence.

Source: Houston Chronicle Company fails to slash award in wrongful death SUSAN CARROLL, January 31, 2011