July 16, 2020 — In a controversial decision, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the family of an overworked truck driver who died in an accident is not eligible for compensation.
The lawsuit involved Fabian Escobedo, a truck driver for Mo-Vac who was working during the oil boom in Texas. At the time, there was a shortage of drivers and Mo-Vac intentionally broke laws to get jobs.
Escobedo’s manager testified that Mo-Vac intentionally forced drivers to work at least 100 hours per week and 19-24 hours straight per day.
He said Mo-Vac also required drivers to falsify logs, violate hours-of-service laws, and work unsafe amounts of overtime.
In May 2012, Escobedo either fell asleep at the wheel or lost control of his vehicle. He veered off the road and rolled over.
Tragically, Escobedo survived the accident but suffocated alone on the side of the highway due to his position in the wrecked vehicle.
His parents and sister filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Mo-Vac, accusing the company of negligence.
Despite evidence of being severely overworked before the deadly accident, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that his family can’t sue Mo-Vac because “being overworked in an unsafe job environment is insufficient” to prove Mo-Vac should have known he would be injured.
Even more unfortunate, Texas workers’ compensation laws only provide payouts for surviving spouses or heirs. Because the wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Escobedo’s parents and sister, they are not eligible for anything under workers’ compensation laws in Texas.
The lawsuit may be over, but Justice Eva Guzman urged the Texas legislature to change the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act to include parents, which would help ensure a similar situation ends with better results for surviving family members:
“A hardworking Texan died alone on the side of a highway in a foreseeable accident that likely would not have occurred but for his employer’s intentional disregard of laws enacted to protect workers and the public. … I write separately to urge the Legislature to align the Act with Texas’s wrongful-death statute by extending the Act’s exemplary-damages exception to parents who have lost a child, like the Escobedo family.”
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