$ 92 million Werner ruling from 2018 turns into a hot potato in roll call

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A nuclear verdict Delivered against Werner Enterprises in 2018 has sparked a lawsuit in a Texas appeals court over the truck load carrier appealing the over $ 90 million prize.

The decision of the 14th Texas Court of Appeals that Werner ‘s (NASDAQ: WERN) appeal should be negotiated en banc, which would be a larger panel than the three-judge panel of the same court that originally heard the appeal but never published its decision.

While the question of whether the en banc hearing should set aside the three-judge appeals court’s ruling may seem technical, a staunch rejection of the decision by one of the judges who will sit en banc suggests that he believes that a lower court had a strong basis to overturn the previous verdict against Werner.

A three-person jury reviewed the original Werner verdict. According to a submission by Judge Megan Hassan, this body completed its work in March of this year with a 2: 1 opinion. However, what the court decided is not contained in any of the documents submitted in connection with the en banc dispute, nor have the litigants been informed of a decision.

Hassan was on the three-person jury and would also sit en banc. Your comments have been tabled to aid the transition to an en banc hearing.

A lawyer associated with the case said one of the judges on the three-person panel had resigned, which helped spark discussion of whether the panel’s verdict would stand or whether the Werner appeal would go to the larger cast of judges. But that doesn’t seem like the only legal battle; In her approval of the decision to hear the case en banc, Hassan said that the opinion of the three-person panel “sought to revise this court’s established standard for reviewing judgments.”

In the protracted dissent over the decision to hear the case en banc, Judge Randy Wilson suggested that there were numerous reasons why the three-person panel could have a basis to overturn part of the nuclear verdict against Werner. An attorney close to the case said Wilson’s comments seemed to indicate that the three-person jury had ruled in Werner’s favor on at least some of the questions raised earlier.

“Are we going to just skip the panel’s decision and go straight to en banc every time a judge believes he or she may be able to cobble together enough votes to overrule a panel at some point in the future?” Wilson wrote. “Why is the en-banc majority so afraid of making a decision of the panel and letting the parties know how at least some of the judges view this case?”

Wilson said the two judges who agreed on the majority position had an opinion “ready to be published” and the opposition was also ready to be published.

In the case, by going straight to an en-banc hearing, the parties will not have the opportunity to express their views on the results of the three-person jury, Wilson wrote. “The en banc court prevented this court from soliciting feedback from the parties on the panel opinions,” wrote Wilson. “That is not the aim of the en-banc view.”

The undisputed facts of the case are heartbreaking. In December 2014, Jennifer Blake was driving her three children in a pickup truck owned by a friend of the Blake family, Zaragoza Salinas. The pickup was traveling east on Interstate 20 in West Texas, traveling 50 to 60 mph.

The truck driver lost control in sleek weather, possibly due to ice on the highway, crossed the 12-meter-long grassy median and crashed into a Werner truck driving westward, driven by Shiraz A. Ali, which was about 80 km away / h drove through the street. The speed limit was 70. Ali braked when he saw the pickup truck coming towards him, but the two vehicles collided.

One of the Blake children was killed; a second remained a quadriplegic. Other occupants of the pickup were less seriously injured.

The focus of the lower court decision in favor of the Blake family was the finding that the driver Ali and thus Werner were made liable for the accident.

Wilson’s protracted disagreement does not seek to re-examine the facts of the case and whether it was reasonable to go to a driver who was in his lane and was hit by a driver who had lost control and ended up heading east on a westward lane drove to blame for the accident.

But he says on fact-checking that the three-person jury was able to make decisions such as whether driver Ali was negligent in driving 80 km / h in bad weather when it was less than the speed limit. Such questions could be answered without an en banc hearing, he wrote.

Specifically, he said a lower court could rule on Werner’s rejected application for a judicial judgment, which Hassan referred to in her consent to the decision to hear the case en banc.

“This case is as unsuitable for en-banc consideration as the hundreds of cases that this court hears each year,” writes Wilson.

At the time of the verdict, which ultimately came to $ 92 million, Werner said it was the largest verdict ever against the company. In the company’s most recent 10-Q report, Werner mentions the case and the pending verdict, but does not provide any further details.

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