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1999 – Parvin vs. Dean: Lawsuit for Death of Unborn Child

Judge Bonnie Sudderth granted summary judgment in favor of parents who suffered the death of their unborn child as the result of a car accident, on the following facts:  The mother of the child was struck by another vehicle while driving through an intersection.  The other driver stipulated that he was negligent in causing the collision and the woman was not at fault. 

Immediately after the collision, the woman, who was 9-months pregnant at the time, felt her baby kicking in the womb.  Although her water did not break and she had no bleeding, an ambulance took her from the accident scene to a hospital as a precautionary measure.  Her unborn child died in the womb en route to the hospital. 

The next day, knowing that her child was no longer alive and with her husband by her side, she endured more than nine hours of labor to deliver her stillborn daughter.  The undisputed medical evidence proved that the child was fully developed, viable and could have lived outside the womb immediately before the collision, she had the capacity to cry at the time of the collision, she was alive at the time of the collision but survived only for a short period of time thereafter, and, finally, that the collision was the cause of the child’s death.

 The law at the time this case was filed in the 352nd District Cout was that while Texas parents could recover for the wrongful death of a child who died only moments after birth, parents could not sue for the wrongful death for a child who was not born alive.  The law also provided that while the mother could recover for her own mental anguish due to the death of her daughter, the father could not recover for his mental anguish.

Judge Sudderth granted summary judgment, ruling that a viable unborn child was an “individual” within the scope of the Wrongful Death Act, and should not be excluded under the statute because she was not born alive.  Judge Sudderth also ruled that the father was entitled to the same rights as a mother to recover mental anguish damages for the loss of his child.

Judge Sudderth’s decision was appealed to the Second Court of Appeals, who, sitting en banc, upheld Judge Sudderth’s ruling.  Justice Dixon Holman authored the opinion, which can be found at:  Parvin v. Dean, 7 S.W.3d 264 (Tex. App. – Ft  Worth 1999).  In a subsequent unrelated case, the Texas Supreme Court criticized the Parvin v. Dean decision, but shortly thereafter the Texas Legislature amended the statute to codify this result.

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Cases from the 352nd District Court

Welcome to the 352nd District Court.  The purpose of this website is to provide a history of the more interesting or notable cases from the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas.

A Brief History of the 352nd District Court:

The 352nd District Court is a district court which serves all citizens of Tarrant County, Texas. Since the 352nd District Court was established on September 1, 1984, only three judges have served in its history.

John G. Street, a Tarrant County civil trial lawyer, was elected to the 352nd District Court on November 16, 1984.  Judge Street was a Democrat who served in that position until December 31, 1988, having being defeated for re-election in the 1988 election by Republican Bruce Auld, a Tarrant County civil trial attorney.  On January 1, 1989, Judge Bruce Auld took the bench, where he served until December of 1995.  Judge Auld resigned due to illness and died a short time thereafter.  Judge Bonnie Sudderth, the former Chief Judge of the Fort Worth Muncipal Court, ran in a contested Republican primary for election to the 352nd District Court bench, winning the seat for a term that would commence on January 1, 1997.  However, because the bench was vacant at the time of her primary election, then-Governor George W. Bush appointed her to fill the vacancy for the remainder of 1996.  (She had no opponent in the general election of November, 1996.)  Judge Sudderth has been re-elected three times to the 352nd District Court and is now serving her fourth term in office.  As such, Judge Sudderth is the longest-serving judge of the 352nd District Court.

Although the 352nd District Court has general jurisdiction to hear all matters properly filed in a district-level court – civil, criminal, family and juvenile cases – in practice, the court hears only civil cases. When the Texas Legislature created the 352nd District Court, it directed that this court would give preference to civil cases; therefore, pursuant to Section 24.498 of the Texas Government Code, all cases which are currently assigned to the 352nd District Court involve civil disputes.

The 352nd District Court is a trial court. Traditional notions of a “trial” usually center around the concept of a jury of 12 citizens serving as the ultimate arbiter of the case. However, most cases in the 352nd District Court are either “tried to the bench” (meaning that all matters of law and fact are presented to the judge for determination) or adjudicated by the judge as a result of a pre-trial motion. Jury trials in civil district court cases are rare today, the vast majority of cases being resolved in some manner other than a full jury trial on the merits.

Civil cases are varied and often complex, involving multiple parties and multiple legal issues in dispute. Among the many different types of cases which are filed in the 352nd District Court are cases involving:

Business entities
Class actions
Commercial litigation
Contracts
Debt collection
Employment and discrimination
Foreclosures
Insurance
Intellectual property
Medical and other professional malpractice
Oil and gas
Partnership dissolutions
Personal injury
Premises security
Property taxes
Real estate ownership and title
Worker’s compensation appeals
Wrongful death and survivorship

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