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Texas Trial Lawyers Association Files Amicus Brief Over Judge James Farris Asbestos Case

Oct 23, 2018

The Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) filed an amicus brief in response to a Texas appeals court throwing out Ellarene Farris’ suit against Jefferson County earlier this year. She accused the county of exposing Judge James Farris, her husband to asbestos while working in the courthouse. He died nine days after being diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2004.

The case was tossed out by the appeals court on the basis that Judge Farris hasn’t been exposed to asbestos in December of 1996 when he retired. The court argued that the six month exposure window closed back in 1997 – however, the decision was not unanimous. Justice Terry Jennings dissented, stating that,

“Based on the majority’s reasoning, Judge Farris was required to provide Jefferson County with notice of a premature and speculative claim within six months of December 1996,” said Justice Jennings. “Because Judge Farris had not suffered any damage or injury, and did not even arguably have a claim against Jefferson County, until nine days before his death, I would hold that Ellarene’s notice, provided within six months of Judge Farris’s first symptoms and, ultimately terminal, mesothelioma diagnosis, was timely.”

In its amicus brief, the TTLA urged the court to grant a rehearing and adopt Justice Jennings’ dissent as the opinion of the court.

“The majority of a panel of this Court held that the notice should have been given eight years earlier, immediately after Judge Farris’s last exposure, but well before he had knowledge of any of the elements required to be included in the notice,” the TTLA wrote. “In so doing, the panel majority completely ignored the statute’s requirements for the contents of the notice–the substantive elements of the claim. As the panel dissent notes, notice can only be given after a claim has accrued, or after there has been “damage or injury”… If the panel majority had followed this Court’s methodological precedent, it would have avoided that absurd result by construing the statute as a whole.”

You can read the full amicus brief here (PDF). Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, which represents Ellarene Farris, hopes to see the court’s decision to throw out her case reversed. She deserves to see justice for her husband’s wrongful death. Our Houston mesothelioma attorneys can be reached at (888) 367-7160, or fill out our online form to set up a free consultation with a member of our firm.

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