Trucking Discovery Overview (Texas)
When performing discovery on a trucking case it is important to consider the interplay of many different concepts. The focus of a trucking case should be three-fold. First, through respondeat superior, Plaintiffs premise liability on the motor carrier through the acts of the driver. Once liability is established against the employer, Plaintiffs should then determine whether or not there is evidence to prove gross negligence.
Second, Plaintiffs should direct discovery to determine if there is evidence of negligent hiring, negligent retention or failure to train on the part of the employer. Facts applicable to these theories are important for Plaintiffs to prove gross negligence against the employer. See Arrington v. Fields, 578 S.W.2d 173 (Tex.App.—Tyler 1979) (discussing the interaction between respondeat superior as a means to establish liability against the employer through the acts of the employee and negligent hiring and negligent retention type cases in which Plaintiffs establish independent bases for liability against the employer).
Finally, trucking cases provide one more avenue to help prove gross negligence that is not available in a typical employment cases. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has set forth many detailed regulations regarding motor carriers, drivers and the vehicles used. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations can create the standard of care to be followed by motor carriers. Compare Omega Contracting v. Torres, 191 S.W.3d 828 (Tex.App.—Ft. Worth 2006) (holding that in a negligence per se case, the jury is not asked to decide whether the defendant acted reasonably under the circumstances because the regulations state what a reasonable person would have done) and Yap v. ANR Freight Systems, Inc., 789 S.W.2d 424 (Tex.App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 1990) (holding that the federal motor carrier safety regulations merely established the standard of care required by law.) Violations of these regulations become important when trying to show that the motor carrier was grossly negligent (especially in regards to hiring, training or retaining employees). These three concepts taken together must be considered when preparing discovery in a trucking case. As detailed below, trucking cases require discovery of documents that relate to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations and discovery typical to any negligence premised on respondeat superior.