TEXAS SUPREME COURT TO DECIDE SEAT BELT ISSUE
Can a Texas defendant offer evidence to the jury to prove that a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt was a proximate cause of her injuries? The Supreme Court of Texas will decide this issue in Nabors Well Services, Ltd. V. Romero.
The El Paso Court of Appeals decided that the trial court properly excluded evidence that the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt was a contributing cause of the damages sought by the plaintiff. The Court of Appeals reasoned that because the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt is not a contributing cause of the accident, then the evidence cannot be used to prove contributory negligence. The Court further reasoned that because the failure to wear a seat belt occurs before the injury, such failure does not fit within the failure to mitigate damages defense. Consequently, the evidence is not relevant to any particular defenses and is not admissible.
On March 21, 2014, the Court granted the defendant’s petition for review, which means the Supreme Court of Texas should finally decide this issue of whether evidence of a plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt can be used defensively by a defendant. This case is especially important in car accident cases with passenger defendants, and may also impact other cases in which plaintiffs cannot be liable for causing the accident but may be contributorily negligent for causing the harm, such as when a motorcycle rider fails to wear a helmet. We will continue to monitor this case.