Rodriguez v. Naylor Industries, Inc., C-7781

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Citation763 S.W.2d 411
Docket NumberNo. C-7781,C-7781
PartiesMary RODRIGUEZ, Petitioner, v. NAYLOR INDUSTRIES, INC., Respondent.
Decision Date25 January 1989

David T. Scott and Joyce M. Zarosky, Hartman, Lapham, Smith & Scott, Victoria, for petitioner.

Cliff Harrison, Tekell, Book, Matthews & Limmer, Houston, for respondent.

DOGGETT, Justice.

Petitioner Mary Rodriguez 1 sued Naylor Industries, her husband's employer, for loss of consortium resulting from personal injuries her husband, Juan, suffered following a tire blowout on a truck he was driving at work. Since her husband's injuries were compensable under the Texas Workers' Compensation Act, only claims involving intentional torts by Naylor are actionable by either Juan or Mary Rodriguez. The trial court rendered summary judgment in favor of defendant Naylor. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment, holding that the evidence did not raise a question of fact on whether an intentional tort had been committed. 751 S.W.2d 701. We reverse the judgment of the court of appeals and remand the cause to the trial court.

Juan Rodriguez was told by his supervisor, David Cameron, to drive one of Naylor's trucks from Rockdale to Port Lavaca and then to Corpus Christi. The truck had four tires on the back axle and two tires on the front axle. Rodriguez inspected the tires on the truck and discovered that the tires had no tread and were cracked. The inner tube was visible on one of the tires. He told Cameron about the appearance of the tires and Cameron responded: "You damn Mexicans, all you do is just bitch.... That truck has to go to Port Lavaca and then ... to Corpus Monday morning.... Either take it or walk."

Rodriguez began the trip as instructed. About four miles outside of Schulenberg, one of the front tires blew out. He hitchhiked to Schulenberg and telephoned Nolan Wallace, another supervisor with Naylor. Rodriguez asked Wallace to bring a spare tire from Houston. Instead, when Wallace arrived, he instructed Rodriguez to take one of the four tires off the back axle to replace the ruined tire on the front. Rodriguez advised Wallace that it was illegal to drive the truck without all six tires. Wallace replied that he should continue to drive the truck until he reached a location where a new tire could be obtained. Rodriguez continued the trip with Wallace following him.

Just before Rodriguez reached Victoria, the lone back tire blew out causing the truck to flip over at which time he was injured. Rodriguez testified, by deposition, that approximately two weeks later Cameron told him not to say anything about the tires on the truck.

The sole question before us is whether the summary judgment evidence establishes as a matter of law that Naylor's conduct did not constitute an intentional tort. We hold that a fact question regarding Naylor's intent was raised by the evidence and summary judgment was, therefore, improper.

The Workers' Compensation Act, Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 8306 § 3(a) (Vernon Supp.1989), provides the exclusive remedy for injuries employees sustain in the course of their employment. Castleberry v. Goolsby Bldg. Corp., 617 S.W.2d 665, 666 (Tex.1981). An employee who receives workers' compensation benefits may not bring suit for injuries caused by his employer's negligence, or even gross negligence; however, the Act does not bar claims against an employer for intentional torts. Id. Therefore, Mrs. Rodriguez' suit for loss of consortium is barred by the Workers' Compensation Act unless she can establish that the injury caused her husband was intentional.

In Reed Tool Co. v. Copelin, 689 S.W.2d 404, 406 (Tex.1985), this court adopted the definition of "intent" provided in the Restatement Second of Torts. "Intent" means "that the actor desires to cause consequences of his act, or that he believes that the consequences are substantially certain to result from it." Restatement (Second) of Torts § 8A (1965). This court then held "that the intentional failure to furnish a safe place to work does not rise to the level of intentional injury except when the employer believes his conduct is substantially certain to cause the injury." Reed Tool Co., 689 S.W.2d at 407 (emphasis added).

Summary judgment is proper only if the movant establishes that there are no genuine...

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