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Otis Engineering Corp. v. Clark

Supreme Court of Texas
668 S.W.2d 307 (1983)


Facts

Robert Matheson, an employee of Otis Engineering Corporation (Otis) (defendant), was frequently intoxicated during work hours. Matheson’s regular inebriation at work was well known by Matheson’s supervisor, Donald Roy, and Matheson’s co-workers. One day, Roy escorted Matheson to his vehicle after several co-workers reported that Matheson was clearly too intoxicated to work. Roy observed Matheson’s condition and asked whether Matheson could drive home safely. Matheson responded affirmatively and drove away from Otis. While en route to his home, Matheson’s vehicle struck a vehicle occupied by Larry Clark and Clifford Clark. The Clarks died in the crash. The respective spouses for the Clarks (plaintiffs) filed a wrongful-death action against Otis seeking damages. At trial, the medical examiner testified that Matheson’s blood alcohol content was .268%. The medical examiner further stated that anyone who encountered Matheson would have concluded that Matheson was very intoxicated. The plaintiffs argued that by sending Matheson home with knowledge that he was very intoxicated, Otis committed negligence. Further, the plaintiffs argued that Otis could have kept Matheson at the work site, sent Matheson to the nurses’ station on the premises, telephoned for a taxi to take him to his home, or called Matheson’s wife to have her pick him up. The trial court granted summary judgment to Otis. The plaintiffs appealed. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the matter to the trial court for a trial. The Supreme Court of Texas granted certiorari to review.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Kilgarlin, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
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  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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