Texas In small claims court, should the defendant’s answer and affirmative defense be addressed by the plaintiff when presenting the case to the judge and jury?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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Texas In small claims court, should the defendant’s answer and affirmative defense be addressed by the plaintiff when presenting the case to the judge and jury?

The plaintiff left their vehicle with a national auto repair shop that needed to transport the car to a different location. The auto shop used their namesake towing dispatching service to call a 3rd party tow truck, which is alleged by the defendant to have caused damage to the client’s car while in transport between store locations. Both parties pointed the finger at each other, and closed the case knowing the damage had not been repaired. The plaintiff has filed suit in small claims court against both parties in Texas. The auto shop’s attorney has provide an itemized defense flatly denying all responsibility. Still waiting for an answer by the towing company, though it is likely they will deny liability as well. Who should be liable? Should the affirmative defense provided by the defendants be used by the plaintiff to formulate the presentation of the facts to the judge?

Asked on July 2, 2019 under Business Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Most likely the 3rd-party tow truck is liable, since a business is not liable for the actions of an independent business (one not owned or controlled by it): rather, that business is itself liable. (And if the tow truck driver was not the owner of the business, the plaintiff could have sued him, too, since the negligent or careless driver, as well as the truck's owner and his employer, is liable when he carelessly causes damage to another's vehicle).
Yes, you want to address their affirmative defenses, since they put those forward as ways to avoid liability, to show that they are not applicable. You don't need to address their denials--just focuse on proving your case, since if you prove your case, their denials will not matter.

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