Supreme Court Upholds Flexible Notion of Venue in Workers’ Compensation Claim
Fortenberry v. Great Divide Ins. Co. ___ S.W.3d ___, 2023 WL ___ (Tex. Mar. 31, 2023)
The Texas Supreme Court issued a decision giving insight into how venues may be viewed in a workers’ compensation claim. The case involved a former player for the Dallas Cowboys who stayed in a Dallas County hotel room provided by the team while he trained and participated in preseason activities. The player was injured while training out of state and the Cowboys terminated his contract. The player then filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, which the insurer subsequently denied.
After exhausting the DWC administrative process, the player sued the insurer in Dallas County, but the insurer then moved to transfer venue to Travis County, which the trial court denied. The player prevailed on the claim for benefits and the insurer appealed on the appropriateness of venue being in Dallas County.
On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the player failed to present prima facie evidence that he resided in Dallas County at the time of his injury. After review, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and remanded for consideration of the insurer’s other issues which had not been addressed. The Court noted that a trial court’s venue determination must be upheld if there is any probative evidence in the record to support it and that appellate courts must consider the entire record, including the trial on the merits, when reviewing that determination. Further, Texas cases have taken a flexible view of what it means to reside in a county for venue purposes. Ultimately, the Supreme Court rejected the court of appeals’ prohibition against a hotel room serving as a person’s residence for venue purposes and concluded there was sufficient evidence in the record to support the trial court’s venue ruling.