Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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In a recent case, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against a plaintiff in a Texas workplace injury case. The plaintiff was employed by an energy company, where his employer and another energy company were drilling for oil. The incident that resulted in this lawsuit occurred when an employee of the other energy company asked him to clean up a spill of fracking liquid; however, the employee did not provide him with any protective gear. Evidently, the liquid contained toxic chemicals that came into contact with the plaintiff’s body. The plaintiff’s skin was burned when it came into contact with the liquid, and within hours, he was in severe pain. About four months later, he was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer.

FactoryProcedural Posture

About two years after being diagnosed with cancer, the plaintiff sued several entities but did not include the energy company that employed the employee who instructed him to clean up the spill. However, shortly thereafter, the plaintiff amended his petition to include the company, alleging that it was negligent in allowing the liquid to leak and asking him to clean it up without protective measures. He argued that the company was liable for his cancer, which was a new illness that developed from his exposure.

The energy company argued that they were entitled to summary judgment because the claim was filed past the statute of limitations. The plaintiff argued that the statute of limitations was tolled because he could not have known about their negligence until after he was diagnosed with cancer. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the company, and the court of appeals then reversed the decision. The defendant then appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

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Seemingly small decisions in a case can end up making or breaking a case. In a recent Texas construction injury case, the Supreme Court of Texas dismissed a $2 million judgment on appeal after the plaintiff submitted a negligence claim to the jury instead of a premises liability claim.

ScaffoldingThe Facts of the Case

An employee was working on scaffolding at a refinery when he slipped on a piece of plywood, causing him to fall through a hole in the scaffold and suffer a neck injury as a result. The scaffolding was constructed by a scaffolding company that the employee’s company had hired to build scaffolds at the refinery. The scaffolding company was required to inspect every scaffold at the refinery before each work shift and before each scaffold’s use. There were almost 3,000 scaffolds at the refinery at the time. The scaffolding company’s employees were not present on the date of the employee’s fall.

The employee brought a lawsuit against the scaffolding company, arguing that the company improperly built the scaffolding and failed to remedy or warn of a dangerous condition. The case went to trial, and the trial court submitted a general negligence question to the jury. The jury found the scaffolding company was negligent and awarded the employee $2 million in past and future damages. The scaffolding company appealed, arguing that the court should not have submitted a general negligence question to the jury because the claim was a premises liability claim.

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bathroomIn a recent Texas slip and fall case, the plaintiff had sued the owner and operator of the apartment complex where he used to live. He claimed that one night in January, he slipped and fell on damaged laminate flooring in his apartment. He claimed that the defendants had failed to keep a safe living environment and carelessly left damaged bath flooring. He alleged that he suffered severe pain due to back and neck injuries, and he stated damages of more than $450,000.

The defendants answered with a general denial and two motions for summary judgment. They claimed that he could respond with premises liability or negligent activity and that even though his petition didn’t specify his precise theory of negligence, the issue was solely a premises liability dispute.

The defendants argued that to recover damages based on a premises liability theory, the victim needed to prove they had actual or constructive knowledge of the property condition that presented an unreasonable risk of injury. They also argued that to recover damages under the negligent activity theory, the plaintiff had to show their affirmative contemporaneous actions caused the injuries. They also argued that to win under a gross negligence theory, he had to establish a negligent act or omission that involved an extreme chance of risk and that the actor actually, subjectively was aware of this risk, but continued on with conscious indifference to others’ welfare.

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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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