The First Court of Appeals in Houston has been asked by the parties involved in a personal injury dispute that netted a $352 million jury verdict to abate an appeal in the case while they work to complete the terms of a mediated settlement agreement.
In a joint motion to abate filed Monday, attorneys representing Allied Aviation Fueling Company of Houston and Ulysses Cruz told the justices they anticipate the settlement will be finalized by the end of May.
“Upon completion of the settlement, the parties will jointly move to dismiss the appeal,” the motion states. “The parties will provide the Court with an update on the status of the settlement no later than May 19, 2022.”
A Harris County jury returned the massive verdict in favor of the Cruz family in February 2022. Cruz was working as a member of the United Airlines ground crew in the fall of 2019 at George Bush Intercontinental Airport when he was hit by an Allied Aviation van.
He suffered serious injuries and is now paraplegic.
He sued Allied and the driver, Reginald Willis, in November 2019.
Harris County District Judge Ravi K. Sandill knocked the $352 million award down by $117.5 million.
Allied filed its brief on appeal Nov. 30 and the brief from Cruz is currently due Jan. 30, pending an abatement of the case.
Allied argued in its brief that a question of its liability for the incident should never have been submitted to the jury under Texas law because “Allied stipulated to vicarious liability for Willis’s negligence.”
“The inclusion of Allied played right into — and enabled the success of — plaintiffs’ unrelenting campaign to villainize Allied,” the company told the court. “That campaign continued through closing argument where, notwithstanding plaintiffs’ abandonment of their punitive damages claim, plaintiffs urged the jury to punish Allied. Their counsel was not subtle, telling the jury that an award of merely tens of millions of dollars would not ‘change things in the corporate boardroom’ — only a nine-figure award would.”
“The jury got the message.”
The case number is 01-22-00083-CV.