$1 Million in Parking Lot Death Case

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by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Heygood, Orr & Pearson attorneys Eric D. Pearson and John “Jay” Pate represented Enny and Wilberto Trejo in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against the owners and managers of a Carrollton, Texas apartment complex.  The case stemmed from the death of their four year-old daughter, Sheyla, who was struck and killed by a pickup truck while crossing the parking lot of the Crosby Creek Apartments.  Mary Loya, the driver of the truck, worked for Defendant Premier Property Management LLC as a housekeeper at the complex.

The Trejos file suit against Loya, Premier and the owners of the apartment complex, Crosby Creek Associates L.P. and MS The Trails Associates L.P.  At trial, attorney Jay Pate elicited testimony from the Plaintiffs’ expert witness that the corporate defendants were negligent for not installing speed bumps, speed limit signs and warning signs in the parking lot, where children were known to play.  Plaintiffs also argued that Mary Loya was negligent for driving too fast and not keeping an adequate lookout.

The defense argued that Sheyla Trejo darted out from between two parked cars, that Mary Loya had no way to avoid her, and that Sheyla’s aunt, who was babysitting Sheyla, did not watch over her closely enough.  The Defendants also argued that speed bumps and speed limit signs were unnecessary and would not have prevented the incident.  Finally, Defendants claimed that Loya was not in the course and scope of her employment at the time of the incident.

At trial, the Defendants’ accident reconstruction expert and the investigating Carrolton Police Department officer testified that the accident was unavoidable.  Plaintiffs did not call their accident reconstruction expert at trial.  Instead, attorney Eric Pearson demonstrated to the jury that both sides’ experts and the investigating police officer had miscalculated the distance between the point of impact and point of rest of the truck, leading them to substantially underestimate the truck’s speed.  Correcting for this mistake, Pearson showed that the accident was avoidable, that Loya was driving too fast and that had she been paying attention, Sheyla Trejo’s death could have been avoided.  Attorneys Pearson and Pate also demonstrated that adjacent apartment complexes all used speed bumps, speed limit signs or warning signs.  Finally, they showed the jury that Loya’s prior statements and Defendants’ own documents proved that Loya was acting in the course and scope of her employment at the time of the accident.

After a five day jury trial in the 298th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, Texas, the jury found that Loya, the property owners and the property management company were negligent.  They determined that Loya was in the course and scope of employment at the time of the accident.  And they awarded damages to the Trejos in the amount of $1,015,000.00.  The Defendants, represented by Dallas attorney Robert Miller, have appealed.