Brown Sims congratulates its Houston shareholder, Tarush R. Anand, for his recent victory in Nueces County, Texas on a hotly contested Rule 91a motion to dismiss. The case involved an industrial accident in which the plaintiff sustained serious injuries. The plaintiff sued his employer (the plant’s owner and operator) by invoking the intentional-injury exception to the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy.
This has been a hot topic recently. We have seen some big verdicts where plaintiffs avoided the workers’ compensation exclusive remedy by claiming that the injury was intentional. This was possible because, until recently, “intentional injury” was not very well defined. Courts have held that intentional injuries can take two forms: (1) purposeful conduct, like throwing a punch; or (2) engaging in conduct despite believing that it is substantially certain to cause injury or death. The second definition caused problems, as courts would sometimes interpret it broadly. But the Texas Supreme Court recently intervened and clarified the law. See Mo-Vac Serv. Co., Inc. v. Escobedo, 603 S.W.3d 119 (Tex. 2020); Berkel & Co. Contrs. v. Lee, 64 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 155 (Tex. 2020). The court disapproved of relaxing the intentional-injury standard and warned that doing so would threaten the viability of the entire workers’ compensation system. The court then clarified the definition of intentional injuries. It held that the substantially certain prong of the definition only applied when the employer believed that its actions were substantially certain to cause a particular injury to a particular employee. In order words, the plaintiff must do more than show that the employer believed its actions were substantially certain to cause an injury; the focus is on the injury.
Returning to the Nueces County case that the firm defended, the plaintiff also sought to invoke the intentional-injury exception to the Workers’ Compensation Act. In defending the firm’s client, Mr. Anand filed and argued a Rule 91a motion to dismiss, asking the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case on the pleadings alone, before any discovery. Dismissals under Rule 91a are rare, but Mr. Anand succeeded in convincing the court to grant the motion and dismiss all claims against the firm’s client with prejudice.
The case is Cause No. 2020DCV-1370-G, Hernandez, et al. v. Wilson Manuf. & Design, Inc., et al.; In the 319th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.