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Legal Memorandum: Designation of Responsible Third Party

Issue: What is the Texas law regarding a negligent actor’s liability for the plaintiff’s injuries when there was an intervening act of negligencesuch as a treating physician–that also might have contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Responsible third party; Proximate cause; Intervening force
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 75 S.W.3d 153; 704 S.W.2d 68; 158 S.W.3d 1; 75 S.W.3d 641; 990 S.W.2d 751; 149 S.W.3d 300
Cited Statutes: Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 33.004 (2006); Restatement (Second) of Torts § 442
Date: 02/01/2006

If an emergency room physician is designated as a “responsible third party.”  Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 33.004 (2006) the physician may not be considered a party.  Texas law regarding the defense available to a defendant under such circumstances is well established.  In Lear Siegler, Inc. v. Perez, 819 S.W.2d 470 (Tex. 1991), the Texas Supreme Court stated the rule that “[n]egligent conduct is a cause of harm to another if, in a natural and continuous sequence, it produces an event, and without the negligent conduct such event would not have occurred.”  Id. at 471.  It recognized that there might be a case in which a defendant’s negligence exposes another to an increased risk of harm by placing the plaintiff in a particular place at a particular time.  Id. at 472.  It held that the case before it was not such a case; rather, the circumstances that brought about the plaintiff’s injury were too remotely connected to the defendant to make the defendant liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.  Id.  See Calp v. Tau Kappa Epsilon Fraternity, 75 S.W.3d 641 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2002) (stating the rule that under Texas law, the plaintiff must prove proximate cause, which is composed of cause in fact and foreseeability, and holding that because the active and immediate cause of the accident was a sleeping truck driver, not the defendant fraternity, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to the defendant).

In 1995, the supreme court reiterated the test […]

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