Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Original Proceeding from the County Court at Law No. 1 Dallas
County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-17-05498-A
Justices Whitehill, Partida-Kipness, and Pedersen, III
mandamus proceeding arises from a personal injury lawsuit.
Plaintiff and real party in interest Michael Ware alleges
that he was injured in a multi-vehicle collision. The
defendants designated a responsible third party. The trial
court later struck the designation on Ware's motion.
Defendant-relator Leonel Molina filed a petition for writ of
mandamus asserting in one issue that the trial court abused
its discretion by striking the designation.
Molina adduced some evidence that the designated responsible
third party is, at least in part, potentially responsible for
Ware's alleged injuries, we conclude that the trial court
clearly abused its discretion by striking the designation. We
further conclude that mandamus relief is warranted.
January 2016, there was a multi-vehicle traffic accident on
the northbound side of Interstate 45 in Ellis County. Shortly
before the accident, police officer Christopher Amos
conducted a traffic stop of the eventual responsible third
party, Babatunde Shabi. Shabi stopped on the left shoulder.
Amos stopped behind him and directed him to move to the right
approached the scene driving in the leftmost lane. Seeing the
police vehicle, he moved one lane to the right. Then Shabi
and Amos crossed the highway in front of Molina at roughly a
ninety degree angle. According to Amos, Shabi's vehicle
occupied all three lanes at once.
slowed down. A semi-trailer truck driven by Pedro Jose
Villalta hit the rear of Molina's van. Then the front
right bumper of Villalta's truck hit the driver-side door
area of a semi-trailer truck driven by plaintiff Ware.
sued Molina, Villalta, and Villalta's employer for
negligently causing personal injuries to him. The defendants
designated Shabi as a responsible third party.
months later, Ware filed a motion to strike the responsible
third party designation, arguing that defendants had no
evidence that Shabi was responsible for the accident. Molina
responded. The trial court granted the motion to strike.
filed a mandamus petition in this Court challenging the trial
court's order granting the motion to strike.
obtain mandamus relief, a relator must show that the trial
court clearly abused its discretion and that relator has no
adequate appellate remedy. In re Prudential Ins. Co. of
Am., 148 S.W.3d 124, 135-36 (Tex. 2004) (orig.
the erroneous denial of a motion for leave to designate a
responsible third party skews the proceedings, potentially
affects the litigation's outcome, and compromises the
defense in ways unlikely to be apparent in the appellate
record, such an error ordinarily renders the appellate remedy
inadequate. In re Coppola, 535 S.W.3d 506, 509-10
(Tex. 2017) (orig. proceeding) (per curiam). The same
problems arise when a trial court erroneously grants a motion
to strike a responsible third party designation. Thus, we
conclude, the appellate remedy is also ordinarily inadequate
when a trial court commits such an error.
law allows a tort defendant to designate a person as a
"responsible third party." Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code § 33.004(a). The designation's purpose is
to have the responsible third party submitted to the trier of
fact as a possible cause of the claimant's harm. See
id. § 33.003. This may reduce the percentage of
responsibility attributed to the defendant, thus ultimately
reducing its liability to the claimant. See id.
§ 33.013; Flack v. Hanke, 334 S.W.3d 251, 262
(Tex. App.-San Antonio 2010, pet. denied) ("[T]he
defendant typically would be the party seeking to retain the
RTP in the jury charge to diminish his potential liability
and perhaps eliminate any joint and several
responsible third party has been designated, and after an
adequate time for discovery has passed, a party may move to
strike the designation "on the ground that there is no
evidence that the designated person is responsible for any
portion of the claimant's alleged injury or damage."
Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 33.004(l). "The
court shall grant the motion to strike unless a defendant
produces sufficient evidence to raise a genuine issue of fact
regarding the designated person's responsibility for the
claimant's injury or damage." Id. Thus, the
question for the trial court is whether the defendant
produced sufficient evidence, more than a scintilla, for a
reasonable jury to find the responsible third party
responsible for a portion of the claimant's injury or
damages. In re Transit Mix Concrete & Materials
Co., No. 12-13-00364-CV, 2014 WL 1922724, at *3 (Tex.
App.-Tyler May 14, 2014, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.).
trial court's ruling on a motion to strike presents a
legal question. Ham v. Equity Residential Prop.
Mgmt. Servs., Corp., 315 S.W.3d 627, 631 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2010, pet. denied). Thus, our review, even under
the abuse of discretion mandamus standard, is de novo.
See In re Labatt Food Serv., L.P., 279 S.W.3d 640,
643 (Tex. 2009) (orig. proceeding) ("Under an abuse of
discretion standard, we defer to the trial court's
factual determinations if they are supported by evidence, but
we review the trial court's legal determinations de
Does the evidence raise a genuine fact issue regarding
Shabi's responsibility for the accident and Ware's
argues as a threshold matter that Ware's motion to strike
argued only that there was no evidence that Shabi breached a
duty of care and thus didn't attack proximate cause. Ware
disputes Molina's contention. For purposes of our
analysis, we will assume without deciding that Ware's
motion challenged both elements. See W. Invs., Inc. v.
Urena, 162 S.W.3d 547, 550 (Tex. 2005) ...