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Texas Court will not hold company liable for employee's death

Insurance providers, and employers might be able to breath a sigh of relief after a recent ruling regarding Texas Drunk Driving, but some drivers and passengers may have reason for concern. The appellate court of Texas and has recently ruled that a company is not liable for the actions of an intoxicated employee, according to the case Clark v. EOG Resources Inc., 12-CV-00262 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist. Jan. 7, 2014).

A former employee of the contractor for EOG Resources, Inc., died in a fatal auto collission while driving intoxicated. He was tested 4 times the legal limit. After the accident, Clark's family tried to sue EOG for negligence and wrongful death, alleging that the EOG failed to enforce its policy on prohibiting driving and drinking on the job, and cited the company's failure to investigate his history of drunk driving, before being allowed to drive the company vehicle.

Cark, according to records, had a long history of driving while intoxicated. He was quickly hired 2 weeks after being released from prison after his fourth DWI conviction. He has complied his driving record for the company when he applied for their job opening. The report was designated for insurance purposes only, only asked for the past three years of his driving history. However, Clark's most recent DWI charges was 6 years earlier and did not show his convictions on the report.

After 6 months for working with EOG corporation, Cark was again arrested for driving under the influence and had his license suspended. Clark did not report his conviction to EOG and continued to drive the company's vehicle without a license. He would die ten months later.

The lawsuit was filed against EOG that they had the duty to scrutinize Clark's employment history, before employing him to drive the company vehicle. They believed that if EOG had done so, they might have deterred Clark's employment after finding his DWI history and adequately enforce the companies own policies to prohibit drinking on the job.

The trial was dismissed and the case was in motion for a summary judgment. The court appeal declared that the EOG Resources, Inc. did not have control over his decision to drinking and driving and were therefore not at fault. Though Texas case laws has found employers accountable over certain circumstances to employee injuries or death, EOG was shown that they did not know and had no part or control over Clark's intoxication. EOG was granted that they did not “owe a duty to prevent [an] employee from injuring himself through his own intoxicated driving of a company vehicle during a lunch break.”

Source: National Law Review, "Texas Court Holds Employer Not Liable for Employee’s Death Due to Driving While Intoxicated," Kathryn J. Barry & Jackson Lewis P.C., January 12, 2014