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Texas Appeals Court Pressed to Drop Jefferson County Asbestos Death Suit

Attorneys representing Jefferson County told a Texas appeals court to drop the lawsuit brought by the widow of James Farris, a former judge who died of mesothelioma reportedly caused by the asbestos that filled the courthouse he spent his career working in.

The attorneys stated that the lawsuit is barred by both the Texas Tort Claims Act and the Workers’ Compensation Act. Earlier this year, the Jefferson Country attorneys attempted to argue that the court was not allowed to hear the case because Farris’ widow, Ellarene, failed to pursue all possible administrative remedies available through the workers’ compensation statute. A Harris County district judge rejected this argument after the County’s attorneys admitted they could not find the contracts that supposedly provided workers’ compensation coverage for Judge Farris.

Farris brought her claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act in 2006 in order to seek damages against the courthouse owner, Jefferson County. The Jefferson Country attorneys are arguing that a claim cannot be brought against the County. They argue that Farris should have filed a workers’ compensation claim instead, which she never did.

Judge Michael C. Massengale asked the attorneys whether or not the county needed to prove that Judge Farris received any workers’ compensation coverage, to which they answered that that was not necessary because all county employees are covered – however, elected officials like Judge Farris do not always have this coverage extended to them because it is optional, not mandatory.

“[The county] has to show coverage was actually provided,” Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC attorney Justin Jenson said. “Simply passing a resolution does not establish as a matter of law that coverage was provided.”

At Bailey Cowan Heckaman PLLC, our mesothelioma lawyers are committed to fighting for the rights of injured victims throughout the United States. If you were recently diagnosed with this type of cancer, give our firm a call to discuss your situation over the phone, or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation today.

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