Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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hallwayIn a recent Texas premises liability decision, the court considered a slip and fall that occurred in the Corrections Center. A woman was going with her family member to pretrial services when she slipped on water in the hallway. She sued the county, and it claimed it had governmental immunity that barred her claims.

A pretrial services caseworker saw the puddle in front of the men’s restroom, which was in an alcove separate from the hall where the plaintiff slipped. When the caseworker saw it, the puddle was about two feet long and didn’t go into the hallway. She told support staff about the puddle, and it was their procedure to call maintenance. She assumed they didn’t but didn’t know.

An hour later, the plaintiff slipped on the water that had progressed into the hallway. The caseworker didn’t see the fall but saw her there afterward. Later, she would testify that the puddle had flowed into the hallway, although she admitted she hadn’t seen the initial puddle move or flow when she saw it.

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gunA recent Texas wrongful death decision arose when a college freshman was shot and killed on a university campus. He was on his way to class when he was shot and killed. On the prior evening, another shooting happened in the parking lot of the same dorm. His mother sued the university for negligence and gross negligence.

She claimed that the university’s employees, representatives, and agents failed to use reasonable care in warning parents and students about the risk of harm on campus and in providing adequate security and taking steps to stop criminal activity.

The university filed a plea to the jurisdiction and a motion to dismiss the mother’s claims on the basis of governmental immunity. The mother argued that immunity was waived by the Texas Tort Claims Act, since the death was caused by a condition or use of real property or personal property. The trial court denied the motion and allowed the plaintiff a month to amend her complaint. The university filed an interlocutory appeal, arguing that her petition affirmatively negated jurisdiction.

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ladderIn a recent Texas premises liability decision, a man sued a company for injuries he suffered while visiting to conduct maintenance on the company’s air conditioning unit. The case arose when an independent contractor working for a filter company was sent to a seafood restaurant operated and owned by the defendant. When he got there, he was shown by managers the ladder and overhead opening that he had to use to gain access to the air conditioners.

Once he’d replaced the filters, he opened the hatch to go down the ladder, but as he closed it, it slammed shut on his right hand. He drew back, lost his balance, and fell about 10-12 feet. He had to go the ER and sustained several injuries. He sued, and the defendant moved for summary judgment. It argued that the record showed he couldn’t meet his burden of proof for the prerequisites for liability under Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 95, and he didn’t have evidence to prove premises liability.

The plaintiff put forward evidence in response, including deposition testimony from the defendant’s designated representative and his own expert. The designated representative testified that he’d worked at the restaurant in question since the start of 2012. He testified that while working at the store, he’d ascended and descended the ladder, and he’d used the hatch numerous times. He said he’d never had trouble with doing these things, and he didn’t know of anybody else being hurt or having trouble with them.

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golf courseIn a recent Texas premises liability case, the plaintiff was a member of a country club that had a golf course. He also owned an associated condo unit. The 16th hole of the gold course had an elevated green, around which were cliffs. While playing that hole, the plaintiff tripped, rolled, and fell off the side. His shoulder was severely injured.

The plaintiff sued the ranch, the designer, and the owner of the country club, claiming gross negligence, negligence, and premises liability. They filed motions for summary judgment. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of them. He acknowledged documents related to his membership at the country club and his ownership of the associated condominium unit included releases that acknowledged and assumed risks associated with the club facilities.

He claimed that a supplemental declaration violated the statute of frauds and that the release wasn’t enforceable because it didn’t meet the fair notice requirements. The evidence wasn’t disputed that he signed a lot sales contract in buying a condo unit. The agreement stated the unit he was contracting to buy was subject to restrictions and conditions. The agreement included a defined term. The declaration referenced a statement that a copy of the documents had been gotten by the buyer. The contract also stated that the declaration was recorded.

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rodeoIn a recent Texas premises liability lawsuit, the plaintiff sued a property owner for premises liability and negligence after tripping over a floor mat at a rodeo. The rodeo was operated at NRG Park for three weeks in March. NRG Park was made up of three entities (including a stadium, arena, and center) and owned by a corporation that hired a management company to oversee the daily operations of the NRG Park complex.

The center had concrete floors, and the management company was supposed to install rubber mats there based on the rodeo’s lease agreement. These mats were stored during times of non-operation. While the event was being prepared, the rodeo told the management company where to put the floor mats. These were unrolled and duct taped together. However, they were not taped to the floor.

After the rodeo started, the rodeo would have responsibility for maintaining the mats. The management company was supposed to assist by replacing tape where necessary.

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traffic signalIn a recent Texas car crash decision, the plaintiff claimed she was hit by a car while using the crosswalk by a courthouse. The traffic light was flashing a walk signal when she started crossing, but the intersection light also gave drivers a protected left turn across the crosswalk with a green left turn arrow. The defendant turned left and hit her.

The plaintiff sued the defendant for negligent driving, but she also sued the city, county, and Department of Transportation for negligence in connection with the signals. She nonsuited the county and the Department. She supplemented her claims against the city by claiming that the city had entered into an agreement with the state in 2001. In this agreement, the city had undertaken to change the traffic signals as necessary and agreed to provide traffic lights at different intersections, including the place where she’d been injured.

She claimed the city was aware there was an issue with the traffic signals because there had been a similar accident in 2012 involving a conflicting left turn signal and a walk signal. She claimed the city police had investigated that collision, thereby allowing the city to become aware of the issue. The plaintiff alleged that even though the city knew there was a problem, it had breached its duties by failing to resolve the issue. It had not properly programmed the lights, and it had not maintained the lights or provided a safe crossing. She claimed these negligent omissions were the legal cause of her accident. She also claimed negligence per se based on violations of the Texas Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices section 4D.05(F)(1)(2) and City of Edinburg Resolution No. 01-1611.

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stop signIn a recent Texas car accident case, the court considered a personal injury lawsuit that arose when the defendant ran a stop sign and crashed into the plaintiff. The defendant was visiting his brother from the UK, and he ran a stop sign. His car hit the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff went to the ER, but the defendant walked away unscathed. The accident happened near a home.

The neighbors had a tree in their yard that the defendant told police blocked his view of the stop sign. The cop had not heard of any prior accidents at the intersection, and he’d never pulled anyone over for running that stop sign.

The plaintiff and his wife sued the defendant. The defendant designated the city and the property owners whose trees blocked the sign as responsible third parties. He argued that it was their negligent failure to trim the trees that was the legal cause of the accident.

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scaffoldingIn a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion, the Court considered a slip and fall case brought against a scaffolding contractor. The case arose when a pipefitter was scheduled to work overtime at a refinery. For the overtime shift, he worked with a different crew than usual, but all crewmembers were employees. The crew had the job of conducting routine maintenance. The pipefitter’s job was dangerous, and he and others were on a scaffold 15 feet above the ground and received fresh air through special equipment.

The pipefitter slipped on some plywood that wasn’t nailed down, and as a result, he fell up to his arms through a hole in the scaffold and hurt his neck. A contractor hired by the pipefitter’s employer built the scaffold. The contractor was required to follow OSHA regulations and other policies, and it needed to inspect about 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery before and during work shifts and use. The scaffold at issue was inspected a week before the work started, but the contractor’s reps weren’t there on the date of the fall, and they were not there during the three days before it.

The pipefitter sued the contractor, claiming improper construction of the scaffold and failure to warn. The contractor didn’t raise the issue of premises liability. The jury found the contractor negligent. It assigned 51% responsibility to the contractor and 49% to the pipefitter/plaintiff. The damages awarded were $178,000 in future medical expenses only.

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rocks on drivewayIn a recent Texas appellate decision, an appellate court considered a premises liability lawsuit in which a former tenant challenged a summary judgment dismissal. The case arose when the plaintiff leased a house in Texas from the defendants under a written lease. He claimed that in January 2013, he tripped and fell on the driveway because of broken and loose rocks in the driveway. He alleged he broke his back due to the fall.

He sued the property owners on the basis of negligence and asked for punitive damages based on gross negligence. The property owners filed for summary judgment, arguing that they didn’t owe a duty to their lessee unless they had written notice that a repair was needed, as required by the lease, and they didn’t owe a duty to warn the plaintiff because the disrepair in the driveway was open and obvious, or else the plaintiff knew about its condition for at least six months before his fall. Later, in a supplemental motion, they also claimed that the driveway wasn’t in the property description in their deed to the property, there was no evidence they controlled the driveway, and the plaintiff had failed to put forth evidence that the driveway presented an unreasonable risk of injury.

The plaintiff responded, stating that he knew of the defect but didn’t know of the specific stone that came loose at the end of the driveway. He also filed an untimely amended response. Summary judgment was granted.

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wet floorIn a recent Texas slip and fall case, the plaintiff walked around a wet floor warning sign that was situated in the hall outside the bathroom in the defendant’s convenience store. The restrooms were at the back of the store and could be accessed through an open entry that led to a small hall.

Surveillance video showed that there was a yellow warning sign that said “wet floor” located in the entry. When the plaintiff turned the corner and walked into the hall to go to the restroom, he walked past the sign. He also walked past an employee who was wet-mopping the floor. While he was inside the restroom, the employee wet-mopped the entrance where the sign was located. She moved the sign while mopping, mopped the spot where the warning sign was, and then returned the sign to the original place.

Two minutes after going into the restroom, the plaintiff left the bathroom and slipped and fell on the wet hallway floor a few feet from the location of the sign. He was hurt and sued the defendants for personal injuries based on premises liability. As a customer, the plaintiff was considered an invitee to the store under Texas law.

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