Texas Supreme Court advisory
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Contact: Osler McCarthy, staff attorney for public information

Two Arguments Set Thursday at UT-PAN AM in Edinburg... Whether workers comp claim can for loss of extremities must involve direct injury to feet and hands ... Whether divided condemnation claims are proper when property is subdivided after condemnation notice

The Court will hear arguments beginning at 9 a.m. at the Student Union at the University of Texas-Pan American in Edinburg.

Live video webcasts courtesy of St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Insurance Company of the State of Pennsylvania v. Carmen Muro from Dallas County and the Fifth District Court of Appeals, Dallas For petitioner: Robert D. Stokes, Austin For respondent: Chad Ruback, Dallas
The issues in this workers compensation case are (1) whether Texas law requires a direct injury to feet and hands in order to support benefits for permanent loss of feet and hands alleged as a result of a back, neck, shoulder and hip injury and (2) whether the trial court should have had the jury decide whether the injuries Muro suffered produced the lost use of her feet and hand. In this case the insurance carrier challenged a hearing officer’s determination granting Muro lifetime disability income for on-the-job injuries that she claimed resulted in permanent loss of a hand and her feet. A jury found Muro had permanent loss of her feet and the hand, awarded her lifetime benefits and attorneys fees. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that a direct injury is unnecessary to support the award and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to submit a producing-cause jury question. The insurance company argues that the jury should have considered the producing-cause factor because evidence indicated Muro had normal feelings in her feet and hand and use of them after the accident.

In re State of Texas
from Travis County and the Third District Court of Appeals, Austin For relator State of Texas: Susan Desmarais Bonnen, Austin For real parties in interest: Stephen I. Adler, Austin
The issue is whether the trial court acted within its discretion by splitting a condemnation action into separate actions when the property owners subdivided the original tract after the original condemnation was filed. In this case the state challenged the trial court’s decision to divide compensation claims into eight separate suits. The property owners who held the original parcel subdivided it in part, they claimed, to demonstrate its higher value. Special commissioners assigned to sort from competing valuations split the difference in appraised values, the new owners moved to split the claims from the commissioners’ award, arguing that none was commonly owned and none of the eight tracts bordered another. The trial court granted the motions. The appeals court denied the state’s petition to prevent the split claims. The state contends in part that dividing the claims was improper because subdivision occurred after the condemnation notice involving one tract and one set of owners. But the owners argue that the subdivision occurred before the state actually took the land – the date the state pays for the land – so assessing the value of eight tracts was proper.

NOTE: This advisory is for planning purposes only. Summaries are prepared by the Court’s staff attorney for public information and reflect his judgment alone on facts and legal issues and in no way represent the Court’s opinion about case merits.