With the rapid advances in technology, it's no surprise that the law has been slow to address the possible reaches these new techniques and devices may have on individuals. However, with United States v. Jones currently pending before the Supreme Court, the law may be close to catching up.
The Texas Supreme Court ruled recently that, in certain circumstances, a defendant who has been sued can blame a health care provider, but the patient cannot. The opinion was issued in Molinet v. Kimbrell, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011).
Recently, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that a worker was required to arbitrate her employment discrimination claims against her employer even though she was an "at-will" employee. Normally, an employer cannot take away an employee's rights to bring a claim in the Texas court system unless the agreement to arbitrate has "consideration." That term means that the employer has given value in order to compel arbitration. Here, the employee was an "at-will" employee, and so the employer could fire her at any time for any cause (other than for an illegal reason, such as one based upon age, religion, or race). She therefore argued that the employer gave no consideration to remove her right to pursue a lawsuit. The Supreme Court disagreed.
The Texas Supreme Court recently ruled against Texas consumers of electricity. The case was Texas Industrial Energy Consumers v. CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC, ___ S.W.3d ___, (Tex. 2010), and the opinion was handed down on October 22, 2010.
During the deregulation of electricity, Reliant Energy was divided into an electrical generation company, a retail provider, and CenterPoint, a transmission and distribution company. Electrical providers were allowed to recovery certain "stranded" costs including interest, as well as the costs of a "valuation panel" incurred when presenting the claim. Here, over the objection of consumers' groups, the Supreme Court affirmed a ruling for CenterPoint by the Public Utility Commission. That ruling allows CenterPoint to recover - and pass along to consumers - an imputed interest rate in excess of 11%. In addition, it will also be allowed to pass to consumers the costs of the experts it hired for its valuation panel, which exceed $5,000,000.
"The consumer groups argue that interest . . . is not allowed because we invalidated Rule 25.263(l)(3) in its entirety in [an earlier opinion]. The PUC and CenterPoint argue that we only invalidated the timing portion of the Rule - the date that interest begins to accrue. We agree with the PUC and CenterPoint."
The Court approved the costs of the valuation panel, approved by the PUC. "[T]he PUC, whose reasonable construction of PURA merits 'serious consideration,' [has] the better argument: '[B]y providing that the transferee corporations 'shall pay' valuation panel expenses, the legislature did not intend to preclude those expenses ultimately being recovered through rates under PURA 36.061(b)(2). [Section 39.262(h)(3)]. . . . It is true, as TIEC contends, that state-agency powers are limited, and agencies may not 'on a theory of necessary implication from a specific power, function, or duty expressly delegated, erect and exercise what really amounts to a new and additional power or one that contradicts the statute, no matter that the new power is viewed as expedient for administrative purposes.' But that admonition is inapposite here.
After three workers fell to their deaths while repairing a communications tower, the insurance company for the responsible company denied coverage. In the recent case of Mid-Continent Casualty Company v. Global Enercom Management, Inc., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010)(10/1/01), the Supreme Court upheld that denial of coverage.
Global Enercom, which maintains communications towers, sent a written contract for repair work to All States; All States signed the contract and then returned it to Global. The contract required All States to provide insurance for Global. The boss of the three workers attempted to hoist them up the tower by using a pick-up truck to pull a rope attached to a pulley; when the rope broke, they fell to their deaths. Global subsequently signed the contract. The carrier denied coverage because of the "auto use" exclusion and the "subsequent-to-execution" exclusion. The Supreme Court ruled that the "auto use" exclusion in a CGL policy applied but that the "subsequent-to-execution" exclusion in a CGL and auto policy did not.
Recently, the Supreme Court reversed its own ruling from just one year before and dismissed a claim brought by a patient in a hospital. In the case of Marks v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010(8/27/10), the Court overturned its holding in the matter from almost exactly one year earlier.