Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, No. 05–10–00843–CV.

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Citation390 S.W.3d 707
Decision Date21 December 2012
PartiesGROCERS SUPPLY, INC. and Jose Narciso Sanchez, Appellants v. Jose Luis CABELLO, Angel Cabello, and Ramiro Cabello, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 05–10–00843–CV.

390 S.W.3d 707

GROCERS SUPPLY, INC. and Jose Narciso Sanchez, Appellants
v.
Jose Luis CABELLO, Angel Cabello, and Ramiro Cabello, Appellees.

No. 05–10–00843–CV.

Court of Appeals of Texas,
Dallas.

Dec. 21, 2012.


[390 S.W.3d 710]


J.J. Knauff, Clark S. Butler, Dallas, TX, for appellants.

Michael A. Miller, Domingo Garcia, Paul R. Hornung, Dallas, TX, for appellees.


Before Justices FITZGERALD, MURPHY, and FILLMORE.

[390 S.W.3d 711]



OPINION

Opinion By Justice MURPHY.

Grocers Supply, Inc. and its driver, Jose Narciso Sanchez, appeal a jury award of damages to brothers Jose, Angel, and Ramiro Cabello resulting from the collision of Grocers's tractor trailer with Angel's and Jose's pickup trucks. They contend federal law preempts submission of lost-wage claims of litigants who do not have the legal right to work in the United States. In three additional issues, they argue there was a lack of evidence to support future medical damages for Angel, a lack of evidence to support property damages for the Cabellos' trucks, and a failure of the trial court to award litigation costs based on an amended offer of settlement. In two cross-points, the Cabellos request sanctions for a frivolous appeal and reformation of the judgment due to a claimed typographical error. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

BACKGROUND

The collision occurred on an interstate highway during the morning of June 15, 2008. Angel had just entered the freeway when he realized one of the tires on his Ford Ranger truck was flat. He turned on his emergency lights and pulled over to the right shoulder of the highway. He called his brothers Jose and Ramiro to help, and they arrived within ten to fifteen minutes in Jose's Ford F–150 truck. Angel's spare tire was already in use, so all three men left in Jose's truck to find a tire shop. When they returned, Jose turned on his emergency lights and parked his truck on the shoulder behind Angel's truck. The three men began changing the tire.

Just as they were finishing the tire change, the 18–wheel tractor-trailer driven by Sanchez struck the rear of Jose's truck. The impact pushed Jose's truck forward, causing it to collide with Angel's truck. Jose saw the tractor-trailer coming and was able to jump away from the truck, but he did not have time to warn his brothers. Angel and Ramiro were struck by one of the trucks. All three men suffered injuries, and the three vehicles caught fire and were damaged extensively. The freeway remained closed for several hours because of the accident.

The Cabellos filed a negligence suit against Grocers and Sanchez. The case was tried to a jury, which apportioned 85% of the liability to Sanchez and 15% to Jose. The damages questions answered by the jury included findings of $6,000 for lost wages and $5,000 for loss of earning capacity for Angel, $1,500 for loss of earning capacity for Ramiro, and $100 for lost wages to Jose (reduced to $85 based on the liability finding). The trial court rendered judgment based on the jury's liability and damages findings. This appeal followed.

DISCUSSION
Issue One: Preemption

We begin our analysis with Grocers's first issue and will not distinguish between Grocers and Sanchez unless context requires otherwise. Grocers frames the issue as “[w]hether federal law precludes the submission of lost wage claims of litigants who do not have the right to legally work in the United States.” It argues under that issue that the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the Cabellos' “ineligibility to legally earn wages in the United States” and by submitting a jury question on lost past and future wages. The parties agree for purposes of our analysis of Grocers's first issue that the Cabellos were present in the United States illegally.

[390 S.W.3d 712]

Grocers relies on the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court's decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137, 122 S.Ct. 1275, 152 L.Ed.2d 271 (2002), for purposes of its preemption argument. Specifically, it argues IRCA preempts Texas tort law and precludes any damage awards to the Cabellos for lost wages and loss of earning capacity because of their undocumented status. In supplemental briefing following oral submission, it also relies on the recent Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. ––––, 132 S.Ct. 2492, 183 L.Ed.2d 351 (2012), to argue that “IRCA has preempted the field of regulation of employment of illegal aliens.” We conclude IRCA does not preempt Texas tort law in the context presented.

Standard of Review and Applicable Law

Federal preemption of state law is an affirmative defense, which presents a legal question for de novo review. See Comcast Cable of Plano, Inc. v. City of Plano, 315 S.W.3d 673, 677 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.) (affirmative defense); Skilled Craftsmen of Tex., Inc. v. Tex. Workers' Comp. Comm'n., 158 S.W.3d 89, 93 (Tex.App.-Austin 2005, pet. dism'd) (de novo review). Grocers, as the party asserting preemption, has the difficult burden of demonstrating the defense applies and overcoming the presumption against preemption. Great Dane Trailers, Inc. v. Estate of Wells, 52 S.W.3d 737, 743 (Tex.2001).

The relevant inquiry for this Court is whether Congress intended to preempt tort-based damage awards for lost wages and loss of earning capacity when it enacted IRCA. We begin our analysis with a review of the relevant preemption principles followed by a review of IRCA and the relevant Supreme Court decisions in Hoffman and Arizona.

Preemption Principles

The preemption defense is predicated on the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and the sovereignty of the States in our federal system. That clause provides that the “Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme Law of the Land ... any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.” U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2. As a result, a state law is preempted and without effect if it falls within an area reserved to federal law. Maryland v. Louisiana, 451 U.S. 725, 746, 101 S.Ct. 2114, 68 L.Ed.2d 576 (1981); Hyundai Motor Co. v. Alvarado, 974 S.W.2d 1, 4 (Tex.1998).

Courts have identified three ways in which federal law may preempt state law—express preemption, field preemption, and conflict preemption. Express preemption occurs when Congress enacts a statute explicitly preempting state law. See, e.g., Cipollone v. Liggett Grp., Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992); Great Dane Trailers, 52 S.W.3d at 743. Field and conflict preemption result from implicit congressional action. Specifically, field preemption exists when the federal scheme is so pervasive it gives rise to a reasonable inference that Congress left no room for the state to supplement the law or when federal law touches a field in which the federal interest is so dominant that we will assume enforcement of state laws on the same subject is precluded. Hyundai Motor Co., 974 S.W.2d at 9 (quoting Rice v. Santa Fe Elevator Corp., 331 U.S. 218, 230, 67 S.Ct. 1146, 91 L.Ed. 1447 (1947)). Conflict preemption exists when a federal law

[390 S.W.3d 713]

preempts state law either because it is impossible for a private party to comply with both state and federal requirements or because state law stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. Freightliner Corp. v. Myrick, 514 U.S. 280, 287, 115 S.Ct. 1483, 131 L.Ed.2d 385 (1995); Hyundai Motor Co., 974 S.W.2d at 4. Judicial action that undermines federal law is subject to the same preemption principles. See Macmillan v. Redman Homes, Inc., 818 S.W.2d 87, 95 (Tex.App.-San Antonio 1991, writ denied).

Presumption against Preemption

All preemption cases begin with the presumption that Congress did not preempt state law. Graber v. Fuqua, 279 S.W.3d 608, 611 (Tex.2009). “Because the States are independent sovereigns in our federal system, courts have long presumed that Congress does not cavalierly preempt state law causes of action.” Medtronic, Inc. v. Lohr, 518 U.S. 470, 485, 116 S.Ct. 2240, 135 L.Ed.2d 700 (1996); Graber, 279 S.W.3d at 611. Congress's power to impose its will on the States and supplant state law is “an extraordinary power in a federalist system.” Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U.S. 452, 460, 111 S.Ct. 2395, 115 L.Ed.2d 410 (1991). Thus, the Supreme Court has mandated that courts are not to conclude congressional ouster of state law in the absence of an unambiguous mandate to that effect. Hyundai Motor Co., 974 S.W.2d at 13 (quoting Fla. Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Paul, 373 U.S. 132, 146–47, 83 S.Ct. 1210, 10 L.Ed.2d 248 (1963)). This analytical framework is crucial in our federal system, “for if in close or uncertain cases a court proceeds to preempt state laws where that result was not clearly the product of Congress's considered judgment, the court has eroded the dual system of government that ensures our liberties, representation, diversity, and effective governance.” Hyundai Motor Co., 974 S.W.2d at 5 (quoting Kenneth Starr et al., The Law of Preemption: A Report of the Appellate Judges Conference (American Bar Association, 1991)) (internal quotations omitted). Consequently, congressional intent is paramount in a preemption analysis. MCI Sales & Serv., Inc. v. Hinton, 329 S.W.3d 475, 482 (Tex.2010); Comcast Cable of Plano, 315 S.W.3d at 677. Congress's intent is discerned primarily from the language of the statute claimed to preempt state law and the statutory framework surrounding it. Medtronic, 518 U.S. at 486, 116 S.Ct. 2240;Gade v. Nat'l. Solid Wastes Mgmt. Ass'n., 505 U.S. 88, 111, 112 S.Ct. 2374, 120 L.Ed.2d 73 (1992) (Kennedy, J., concurring in part and concurring in judgment). Also relevant is the structure and purpose of the statute as a whole, as revealed not only in the text, but through the reviewing court's reasoned...

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24 practice notes
  • Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co., No. S196568.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Junio 2014
    ...law ( 18 U.S.C. § 1546(b) ) and state law ( Pen.Code, § 114 ) and to deportation. (See Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello (Tex.Ct.App.2012) 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 [stating that "potential damage awards are not meaningful incentives to draw illegal immigrants into this country"].)Furthermore, not ......
  • Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co., No. S196568.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Junio 2014
    ...law (18 U.S.C. § 1546(b)) and state law (Pen.Code, § 114) and to deportation. (See Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello (Tex.Ct.App.2012) 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 [stating that “potential damage awards are not meaningful incentives to draw illegal immigrants into this country”].) Furthermore, not all......
  • Ayala v. Lee, No. 1288
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 2013
    ...(Minn.2003) (concluding that Hoffman does not prevent award of state workers' compensation benefits); Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 (Tex.App.2012) (“We have found no evidence Congress intended IRCA to combat illegal immigration by encroaching into the States' authorit......
  • Martinez v. Cont'l Tire the Ams., LLC, Case No. 1:17-cv-00922-KWR-JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 4 Agosto 2020
    ...of the accident has no bearing on his ability to recover damages for lost earning capacity."); see also Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, 390 S.W.3d 707, 721 (Tex. App. 2012) ( Hoffman does not apply to personal injury damages); Hocza v. City of New York , No. 06 CIV. 3340, 2009 WL 124701, a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co., No. S196568.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Junio 2014
    ...law ( 18 U.S.C. § 1546(b) ) and state law ( Pen.Code, § 114 ) and to deportation. (See Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello (Tex.Ct.App.2012) 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 [stating that "potential damage awards are not meaningful incentives to draw illegal immigrants into this country"].)Furthermore, not ......
  • Salas v. Sierra Chem. Co., No. S196568.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 26 Junio 2014
    ...law (18 U.S.C. § 1546(b)) and state law (Pen.Code, § 114) and to deportation. (See Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello (Tex.Ct.App.2012) 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 [stating that “potential damage awards are not meaningful incentives to draw illegal immigrants into this country”].) Furthermore, not all......
  • Ayala v. Lee, No. 1288
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 18 Diciembre 2013
    ...(Minn.2003) (concluding that Hoffman does not prevent award of state workers' compensation benefits); Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, 390 S.W.3d 707, 719 (Tex.App.2012) (“We have found no evidence Congress intended IRCA to combat illegal immigration by encroaching into the States' authorit......
  • Martinez v. Cont'l Tire the Ams., LLC, Case No. 1:17-cv-00922-KWR-JFR
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of New Mexico
    • 4 Agosto 2020
    ...of the accident has no bearing on his ability to recover damages for lost earning capacity."); see also Grocers Supply, Inc. v. Cabello, 390 S.W.3d 707, 721 (Tex. App. 2012) ( Hoffman does not apply to personal injury damages); Hocza v. City of New York , No. 06 CIV. 3340, 2009 WL 124701, a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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