SAN ANTONIO COURT OF APPEALS AFFIRMS SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF DRIVER OF VEHICLE BASED ON THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IN LAWSUIT BROUGHT BY PASSENGER IN SAME VEHICLE
The San Antonio Court of Appeals in Ellard v. Ellard, Cause No. 04-13-00709-CV, 2014 WL 3605935 (July 23, 2014), upheld summary judgment in favor of driver of vehicle based on the two-year statute of limitations set forth under Texas law.
This case stemmed from personal injury damages sought in a cross-claim by one co-plaintiff against another following a single-car accident that occurred on January 14, 2010. William D. Ellard (“Father”) was driving the vehicle and William B. Ellard (“Son”) was the passenger in the vehicle. On December 13, 2010, Father and Son, as co-plaintiffs, filed suit against their insurance carrier, Farmers Insurance, for its failure to tender benefits under the personal auto policy.
Several years later, on October 30, 2012 (two years and nine months after the accident), Son filed a cross-claim against his father asserting damages arising from the manner and method that Father was operating the vehicle on the day in question. Father filed a traditional motion for summary judgment based on the statute of limitations under Section 16.003(a) of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code (“CPRC”), which provides a two-year limitations period for tortious acts involving a motor vehicle. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Father.
Section 16.069 provides that if a cross-claim arising out of the same occurrence that is the basis of an action, a “party” to the action may file a cross-claim even though as a separate action it would be barred by limitations. On appeal, Son asserted Section 16.069(a) of the CPRC provides that his cross-claim is exempt from the normal statute of limitations bar, as Son is a “party.” Father argued that the Son’s theory was illogical because a cross-plaintiff could sue at any time during the pendency of the suit and that is not what the Legislature’s intent was when drafting the statute. Citing to appellate decisions from sister courts, the Court of Appeals held that although the Legislature used “party” and not “defendant” in Section 16.069, the statute was intended to apply to “defendants” in a suit; not plaintiffs. Section 16.069 “extends limitations only if a defendant’s action is a counterclaim against the original plaintiff, or a cross claim against an original co-party defendant.”