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Peters v Texas Instruments Inc

December 15, 2011 – Case Report

 

Peters v. Texas Instruments, Inc., C.A. No. 10C-06-043 JRJ, (Del. Super. Ct. September 30, 2011)

 

In a continuing effort to keep you up-to-date on happenings in workers’ compensation we offer the following important information.

 

This is a factually and legally interesting case.  Although decided by a Delaware court it applies Texas law as interpreted by the Delaware court.  The Court first looked at whether the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act bars claims for injuries suffered by an employee's child caused or contributed to by the employee's exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace.  In other words the child is not nor was not the employee of Texas Instruments at the time of the hazardous exposure.  The Court held the child’s claims are "derivative" of his employee father’s claim and thus are barred by the exclusive remedy provision of the Texas Workers' Compensation Act

 

Grady Peters the father claims he was exposed to "hazardous, genotoxic, and reproductively toxic substances" while employed by Texas Instruments.  Mr. Peters claims this exposure “caused an insult to his reproductive system,” which contaminated or altered his semen. Mr. Peters said this hazardous exposure occurred prior to and at the time of the conception and gestation of his son, Christopher.  Christopher was born with birth defects, including retinoblastoma.  Grady Peters sued Texas Instruments on his own behalf and on behalf of Christopher.

 

Texas Instruments denied the suit arguing that: Grady Peters’ claim would have been the basis for a workers' compensation claim had it been timely asserted, and since Grady’s and Christopher Peters' claims derive from Grady's alleged workplace exposure, therefore, these claims are barred by the exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation.  Texas Instruments also argued that Grady’s and Christopher’s claim for preconception tort liability is not recognized under Texas law.  In other words, Grady and Christopher were claiming that Christopher was injured by a hazardous exposure that occurred before he was ever conceived!

 

The Delaware court stated that while Texas courts recognize that family members' claims that are derivative of the employee's claim are included within the exclusive remedy bar of workers' compensation, however “no Texas case directly addresses this present situation, i.e., the alleged preconception injury resulting from Grady's workplace exposure.”  The court went on to state the only reported Texas appellate decision referencing the term "preconception" or "preconception tort," is Fox v. Estrada, No. 14-97-00821-CV 1998 Tex. App. LEXIS 7506 (Tex. App. - Houston [14th Dist.] Dec. 3, 1998, no writ), an unpublished decision.

 

 

 

The 14th Court of Appeals in Fox v. Estrada did not reach the question of whether Texas law recognized a preconception tort.  However, in the case of Chenault v. Huie, 989 S.W.2d 474 (Tex. App. - Dallas 1999, no writ), the Dallas Court of Appeals was unwilling to recognize potential preconception liability, finding that such matters were squarely within the purview of the legislature.

 

The Delaware court also declined to hold that there was preconception liability citing to the Texas Supreme Court case of Roberts v. Williamson, 111 S.W.3d 113 (Tex. 2003). In Roberts v. Williamson, 111 S.W.3d at 118, the Supreme Court held that the parent-child relationship is not reciprocal like husband and wife and that the child is the party to the relationship who needs special protection. The Court conceded that serious injury to a child will have emotional consequences for the parents. “Tort law, however, cannot remedy every wrong. Sound public policy requires an end at some point to the consequential damages that flow from a single negligent act. As the New York Court of Appeals has explained: ‘Every injury has ramifying consequences, like the ripplings of the waters, without end. The problem for the law is to limit the legal consequences of wrongs to a controllable degree.’" Id.

 

The Peters v. Texas Instruments, Inc., case can be read here:

 

http://www.leagle.com/xmlResult.aspx?xmldoc=In%20DECO%2020111007062.xml

 

 

 

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