Houston Office Secures Favorable Verdict in Trespass and Nuisance Case Involving Subcontractor’s Accidental Installation of Storm Sewer Pipe on Plaintiff’s Property
Houston, Texas (May 26, 2023) - Houston Partners Joelle Nelson and Matt Begley secured a defense verdict on behalf of a gasoline services company following a four-day trial in the 284th District Court of Montgomery County, Texas.
In this case, Lewis Brisbois represented a client who hired a contractor to install a storm sewer line to mitigate flood risks to the client’s property. The contractor, however, deviated from the engineering plans and installed the storm sewer line on a neighboring property owned by the plaintiff. The storm sewer line then remained on the plaintiff’s property for five years while the parties attempted to negotiate potential solutions to the situation. The plaintiff refused multiple reasonable settlement attempts and ultimately sued the client and the contractor for continuous trespass and private nuisance. The contractor’s carrier denied coverage, making the client the target defendant. The matter proceeded to trial.
During the trial, the defense team focused on the plaintiff’s real estate damages expert. The expert’s model included dubious assumptions concerning the highest and best use of the plaintiff’s property in an attempt to significantly inflate the plaintiff’s damages. The defense team’s cross-examination severely damaged the expert’s credibility. However, the trial was complicated by the exclusion of key correspondence between the parties that the trial judge ruled to be confidential settlement negotiations. Despite the exclusion of that evidence, and through the creative use of portions of the correspondence that were not excluded as well as the client’s representative’s testimony, the defense team was able to present the client’s story to the jury.
After deliberating for less than two hours, the jury returned with a verdict assigning only 1% of the liability to Lewis Brisbois’ client, with the remaining 99% assigned to the previously dismissed contractor. The jury assigned zero damages, resulting in a take-nothing judgment for the plaintiff.
Ms. Nelson is vice-chair of the firm's National General Liability and Transportation Practices. She has successfully handled a wide variety of claims related to transportation, catastrophic injury, construction defect claims, products liability defenses, and premises liability claims on behalf of small businesses to large national retailers.
Mr. Begley is a member of the firm's General Liability Practice. He focuses on premises liability, personal injury, and complex commercial litigation in state and federal courts across the state of Texas.
For more information on this case, contact either of the attorneys involved.