Jury finds plaintiff at fault for 2004 accident

Christopher Maher, Jim Wells County Correspondent

An Orange Grove woman who sued Jim Wells County after she was involved in an accident with a county vehicle was found by a jury to be 100 percent liable for the accident Tuesday.

The lawsuit was filed April 27, 2005, by Anna Lisa Major of Orange Grove.

In her lawsuit, Major alleged that on July 22, 2004 she was traveling north on Highway 359 near Orange Grove, following a backhoe driven by Juan D. Puentes, an employee of Jim Wells County, when the backhoe swerved into her lane, allegedly causing an accident.

On Tuesday, a jury deliberated for an hour before returning a verdict that Major was 100 percent liable for the accident.

That verdict followed two days of testimony by two witnesses to the accident, Department of Public Safety trooper and investigator Jared Hardwick, Orange Grove Police Chief Arthur Rogers and County Commissioner Wally Alanis.

Philip McKinney, the attorney representing the county in the lawsuit, said he was not surprised by the jury's decision.

"I just think they looked at the facts and made their decision," McKinney said. "I always thought it was a no-brainer. She ran into the back of a backhoe."

Gray Scoggins, the attorney representing Major, said he was disappointed with the jury's decision Tuesday.

"We thought we proved the county was negligent, but obviously the jury disagreed with us," Scoggins said. "I think it's hard to sue a governmental entity. That kind of puts you at a disadvantage from the get-go."

Tonya Ramos and Lisa Gonzalez, two of the jurors in the case, said the jury was unanimous in their verdict.

"We felt Jim Wells County was not at fault, that it was an accident that could have been prevented," Ramos said.

Jose Moreno, another of the jurors, said he agreed.

"The equipment that they had met all the regulations that it had to have," Moreno said. "It was a nice day, sunny, she should have looked ahead."