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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Appellants, Rosa Velia Sanchez de Arrellano, individually and as next friend of her minor children; Josefina del Gadillo, as representative of the estate of Jamie Arrellano, deceased; and Ines Martinez de Arrellano challenge a judgment in favor of appellee, State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., in a suit arising from the denial of coverage to Jamie Arrellano’s employer, Ashik Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a/ Southwest Plumbing Co. On July 1, 2000, Jamie Arrellano died when a trench caved in on him. On the day of the accident, Arrellano worked on a four-person crew, digging a trench, and laying and leveling a sewer line in that trench. Work in the trench had finished for the day, and the crew proceeded to clean up the job site. Five to ten minutes before the accident, Manoj Trakkar, Arrellano’s site supervisor, saw Arrellano cleaning up the parking lot. No one witnessed Arrellano return to the trench, and no one knows why Arrellano returned to the trench. Southwest Plumbing carried no worker’s compensation insurance. Arrellano’s family and estate filed a wrongful death action against Southwest Plumbing and obtained a money judgment. Southwest Plumbing’s insurance carrier, State Farm, defended Southwest Plumbing against the claim, subject to a reservation of the right to deny coverage based on an exclusion in Southwest Plumbing’s insurance contract if Arrellano died in the course and scope of his employment with Southwest Plumbing. After the conclusion of the lawsuit, State Farm brought a declaratory judgment action pursuant to Chapter 37 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code against Southwest Plumbing and appellants, seeking a declaration that State Farm has no duty to defend or indemnify Southwest Plumbing based upon State Farm’s reservation of right. Appellants filed a counterclaim, seeking a declaration that State Farm has a duty to defend and indemnify Southwest in the underlying lawsuit. After a bench trial, the trial court declared Southwest Plumbing’s insurance policy did not afford coverage in the underlying claim. HOLDING:Affirmed. The evidence before the court consisted of excerpts from two depositions: 1. Manoj Thakkar, the plumber and supervisor at the job site on the day of the accident; and 2. Ishvar Revdiwala, the owner of Southwest Plumbing. Even though no direct evidence exists as to why Arrellano went into the trench, the trier of fact may draw reasonable inferences from surrounding circumstances. The record reveals the following evidence: 1. Arrellano performed project clean-up activities immediately before the accident, 2. Arrellano’s co-workers performed the same work-related activities immediately before the accident, 3. The work-related activities would not have been completed for approximately another 15 to 20 minutes when the accident occurred, 4. Arrellano’s co-workers remained on the clock until sometime after the accident and 5. Arrellano would have remained on the clock until he drove back to the office and punched out if the accident had not occurred. The record contains more than only slight circumstantial evidence. Although no one knows why Arrellano went into the trench after work there had been completed for the day, in light of the evidence of what had been happening at the site immediately before the accident and what would have been happening immediately afterwards, the most reasonable inference is that Arrellano was acting in the course and scope of his employment when the accident occurred. Considering this evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court’s finding while disregarding all evidence and inferences to the contrary, the court holds the evidence is legally sufficient to support the trial court’s finding Arrellano was in the course and scope of his employment at the time the trench caved-in on him. Thakkar testified the trench had already been cleaned for the day, and he could think of no work related reason for Arrellano to go back into the trench. Thakkar also testified that, as Arrellano’s on-site supervisor, he did not instruct Arrellano to go back into the trench. Appellants argue that given this testimony, an inference that Arrellano was acting within the course and scope of employment is based on mere speculation. The evidence in favor of the trial court’s judgment is not merely speculation, the court determines. The findings are reasoned inferences based on circumstantial evidence. Appellants have not demonstrated the evidence to support the trial court’s finding is so contrary to the overwhelming weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and manifestly unjust, the court determines. OPINION:Anderson, J.; Hedges, C.J., Yates and Anderson, JJ.

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