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It is What it Is . . .

Saul Kevin Costner.jpgThe Case:

Schultz v. Lester, 2011 Tex. App. LEXIS 5866 (Tex. App.-Dallas Jul. 29, 2011, no pet.)

Brief Facts:

Melvin Lester was traveling in a commercial vehicle on Interstate 30 in wet and cold weather conditions. Ahead of him and to his right was a commercial vehicle driven by Michael Huber. Sonia Schultz passed Mr. Lester on his left, crossed in front of his vehicle, and collided with Mr. Huber's vehicle. Ms. Schultz' vehicle then spun out of control and struck Mr. Lester's vehicle.

At trial, the Plaintiffs attempted to enter into evidence 49 C.F.R. § 392.14 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and Sections 2.6 and 2.10 from the Texas Commercial Motor Vehicle Drivers Handbook. The trial court refused to admit this evidence after the Defendants objected to those sections as hearsay. The Plaintiffs later appealed this exclusion.

The Decision by the Dallas Court of Appeals:

The Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's exclusion. The court first noted that a hearsay objection is inapplicable where the regulations at issue establish the standard of care.

The regulations at issue, however, did not establish the standard of care. Instead, they incorporated the ordinarily prudent person standard. Since this standard was addressed in the trial court's charge, there was no need to admit the regulations or instruct the jury about them.

What to Take Away:

Regulations that simply require a commercial driver to do what is reasonable under the circumstances do not ordinarily establish a special standard of care. In that situation, you should move to exclude the admission of regulations on the basis that they are cumulative of the "ordinarily prudent person" standard upon which the Judge will instruct the jury and that the jury will already apply.

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The Bassett Firm

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