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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Lonny George worked for Columbia Silsbee Doctors Hospital, a subsidiary of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which did not subscribe to workers’ compensation. George elected to participate in the employee benefit plan that secured benefits in lieu of a common law remedy for work-related injuries. George signed a participation document that included a waiver agreement stating that, by participating in the employee benefits program, the signer agreed to “hereby freely, irrevocably and unconditionally release, waive and agree not to sue upon, any and all claims and causes of action, whether now existing or arising in the future, that I may have against Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation, its subsidiaries, its officers, directors, shareholders, agents and employees, that arise out of or are related to injuries or death sustained by me in the course and scope of my employment by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation and are caused by the sole negligence of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation or the negligence of Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation concurrent with the negligence of any other person or entity.” In 1996, shortly after joining the benefits program, George fell off of a ladder during work and broke several bones in his foot. George sued the hospital for his on-the-job injuries. During voir dire, two potential jurors stated that regardless of the evidence, they would award George some money. A third potential juror stated that she would have trouble not giving George money, “something, anyway.” A fourth juror admitted to knowing both George and his wife. The trial court denied the hospital’s request to strike these jurors, so the hospital used peremptory strikes to have them removed. The hospital later asked for additional peremptory strikes, but its request was denied. The jury returned a $1 million verdict in George’s favor: $100,000 for past damages, and $900,000 for future damages. HOLDING:Reversed and remanded. Preliminarily, the court turns back the hospital’s argument challenging George’s ability to recover any damages in light of the waiver to the benefits plan he signed. The hospital argues that George waived his right to sue, while George contends that the waiver applied only to suits against the hospital’s parent corporation, not the hospital. The court agrees with George. “The agreement George signed is not ambiguous as it can be given a definite legal meaning. The clear and unambiguous language found within the four corners of the document here addresses only injuries arising out of George’s employment by Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corporation. It is not disputed that George’s injuries arose out of his employment by the Hospital, which, although a subsidiary of Columbia/HCA, is a distinct legal entity under Texas law.” The court adds that Columbia/HCA could have an interest separate and apart from the interest of the hospital that would cause the parent company to require a waiver of common-law rights as to itself, but not as to its subsidiaries. The court refuses to imply that the drafters of the waiver intended to include the hospital as a party against whom George waived his common-law remedies where the waiver agreement did not expressly refer to the hospital. The court assumes that because the trial court did not strike the four venire members as the hospital requested, the trial court impliedly found they were not biased. The court agrees that the juror who said he knew George and his wife was not biased as a matter of law, and there was no error in refusing to disqualify him. It was error, however, not to disqualify the other three potential jurors. The first two expressed an unequivocal bias in George’s favor because they both tacitly indicated the would disregard instructions by the trial court on the burden of proof. They did not indicate that they would try to follow the trial court’s instructions. The trial court had no discretion not to disqualify these two. It was in the trial court’s discretion whether to strike the third juror who said she’d have trouble not awarding George something, however. The trial court could have determined that the juror was not biased. But, because it is presumed that two objectionable jurors made the jury by virtue of the trial court’s failure to disqualify the other two jurors, the court finds the case must be remanded for a new trial. OPINION:Horton, J.; Gaultney, Kreger and Horton, JJ.

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