Negligence award in workplace injury suit affirmed

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    Reprints

    negligence

    A Texas appeals court on Thursday affirmed the confirmation of a $930,000 arbitration award to a trailer manufacturing worker who sued for negligence following a workplace injury in 2017 despite the employer’s argument that the arbitrator “exhibited evident partiality.”

    Joseph Julian, then working for Load Trail LLC, was lifting a toolbox when he was knocked to the ground by what he believed was a forklift. Mr. Julian was diagnosed with herniated discs and underwent lumbar fusion surgery. He also suffered from neck pain following the accident and testified that he could no longer play with his children and that, although he attempted to resume work on two different occasions, he was physically unable to do manual labor, according to documents in Load Trail, LLC, v. Joseph Julian, filed in the Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, in Texarkana, Texas.

    As Texas is a state that does not require employers to carry workers compensation insurance, Mr. Julian later sued for negligence. According to an employment arbitration agreement with Load Trail, the matter when went into arbitration, documents state. Mr. Julian was awarded damages after an arbitrator found Load Trail negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace, according to documents. Mr. Julian thereafter filed a motion to confirm the arbitration award in the trial court, while Load Trail moved to vacate the award. The trial court affirmed.

    Load Trail then appealed, complaining “that the arbitrator’s rulings and behavior during the arbitration proceeding displayed evident partiality amounting to actual bias and that bias was further evidenced in the arbitrator’s findings and Final Award,” documents state.

    “Load Trail has scoured the record and has recited perhaps every instance during the three-day hearing in which the arbitrator overruled any objection it voiced. Load Trail claims that the totality of these circumstances would compel a reasonable person to conclude that the arbitrator was partial to Julian,” documents state.

    The appeals court affirmed the award, stating in part that Load Trail “failed to satisfy the onerous burden of establishing ‘specific facts from which a reasonable person would have to conclude that the arbitrator was partial to one party,’” as required by case law.

    “Claims of perceived actual bias during the proceeding aside, Load Trail would have this Court vacate the Final Award based on alleged fallacies in the arbitrator’s findings of fact and award, claiming those alleged fallacies indicate bias. This Court is not permitted to ‘conduct a review of an arbitrator’s decision on the merits,’” the ruling states.

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