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Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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agriculture-animal-beef-bull-301600-300x201The Supreme Court of Texas, recently issued an opinion addressing the reach of the Texas Farm Animal Activity Act (Farm Act). According to the court’s opinion, the defendants owned and operated a 760-acre cattle farm. In 2005, they hired a part-time ranch hand to work the cattle and perform other duties at the ranch. After training the ranch hand, they allowed him to work alone while the owners tended to their other businesses. On the day of the accident, the owners instructed the ranch hand to move 20 head of cattle from one end of the ranch to another. When the owners returned, they found the ranch hand dead behind the barn. It was indicated in the medical report that the ranch hand died from blunt force and crush injuries, most likely from being trampled by the animals.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the ranch hand’s family against the owners, alleging that they were negligent in failing to provide a safe workplace, failing to train the ranch hand and warn him of the dangers of working cattle, and failing to supervise him. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants finding that the Farm Animal Activity Act (Farm Act or Act) barred the plaintiffs’ claims; however, the court of appeals reversed, and the defendants petitioned the court for review.

The Farm Act (the Act), which is an expansion of the Equine Activity Act, limits liability for injuries to a participant in a farm animal activity that results from an “inherent risk” of the activity. One example is when someone is injured while competing in a horse race. The Act applies whether a person is an amateur, professional, pays, or participates in the activity for free. The are about 40 specific examples of these activities included in the Act. However, notably, ranchers’ and ranch hands’ involvement with the animals is not mentioned in the the Act.

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city-road-landscape-landmark-158854-200x300The Supreme Court of Texas recently issued an opinion stemming from the death of a student who was shot by a University peace officer. The student’s parents filed a lawsuit against the University and the peace officer. In response, the University argued that governmental immunity protects it from being sued for injuries related to law-enforcement activities.

Sovereign immunity, otherwise known as governmental immunity, protects government officials and entities from certain civil lawsuits. However, Texas waives this immunity in specific situations. That said, plaintiffs still frequently face difficulties recovering in these cases. Texas courts have not extended this immunity to private entities, even if they perform some governmental duties. In some cases, institutions will purport to possess these protections, even though they are private institutions.

In evaluating whether the law provides governmental immunity to an institution, courts will examine whether the party acted as an arm of the state government, and if its conduct fits within the purpose of the doctrine. Generally, private universities do not act as an arm of the state. Even if a university performs law enforcement activities that may protect the public, the doctrine does not extend to these institutions. Although Texas Education Code allows private institutions to hire peace officers, the individual officer’s immunity does not extend to the private institution.

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chair-color-entertainment-fun-261348-scaledSummertime is here and that means travel season.  Staying in a hotel or resort is usually a big part of the vacation experience.  Before the family gathers up the towels and heads down to the pool for some fun remember to always be cautious and aware around the water.

Every year, hundreds of vacationers enjoy swimming at their hotel pools. A beautiful breeze and the refreshing water in these swimming pools makes for a relaxing day in the sun. Despite the benefits and many pleasures swimming pools provide to its users, there are also risks involved.

Hotel pool accidents are similar to apartment pool accidents when it comes to legal matters. Just like an apartment pool complex, a hotel pool complex must be properly maintained by staff and must be in proper working condition so that injury or harm is less likely to occur for a hotel resident or visitor. Furthermore, the maintenance staff must maintain pool safety standards by restricting dangerous areas for kids and putting restrictions around the pool so that children do not have access to the dangerous areas of the hotel pool. In addition, warning signs must be posted as well in the pool area.

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With the millions of visitors that throng to water parks each year, it is a statistical inevitability that accidents are destined to occur. Fractured bones, neck and back injuries, water-borne diseases, and even death are the type of injuries and tragedies that can unfold in the twinkling of an eye at these popular amusement places.

When water park mishaps or drownings take place, the injured victim or parent or guardian of an injured loved one can pursue compensation through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible parties. Yet the process of determining just who is to blame for such water park accidents can be challenging because of the many legal complexities surrounding these water park accidents. 

 Water Park Accident Liability – Who is Responsible?

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abstract-animal-arachnid-art-276377-225x300Recently, the Supreme Court of Texas, issued an opinion addressing whether the ferae naturae doctrine limits a landowner’s liability when a wild animal on their property causes damages. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant owned a bed and breakfast (B&B) and a neighboring cabin on the property. In 2012, the defendant began renting out his B&B, primarily on the weekends. Before each rental, the owner hired a cleaning service to prepare the home for the incoming guests. This preparation included identifying any potential pest problems and utilizing a “bug bomb,” in cases where the housekeeper noticed a pest issue.

In 2014, the defendant leased the neighboring cabin to the plaintiff. The defendant often employed the plaintiff to do various maintenance work on the B&B. On previous occasions, the plaintiff notified the defendant that he observed spiders in the cabin and B&B. The defendant would tell the housekeepers of these sightings so that they could appropriately prepare the B&B for guests.

In preparation for incoming guests, the plaintiff asked the defendant to check on the B&B’s dishwasher and determine whether the sink was leaking. When the plaintiff was checking the sink, a brown recluse spider bit him. Neither the plaintiff nor the defendant had any knowledge that there were brown recluse spiders on the property. Although, the defendant read reports that brown recluse spiders are often found in Texas, and he assumed they might exist on his property.

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adult-alcohol-bar-bartender-274192-scaledUnder Texas premises liability law, restaurants and bars have a duty to protect their customers. However, the extent of this duty is often called into question in cases where someone is injured while visiting an eating or drinking establishment. In a recent opinion, the court was asked to determine whether the defendant bar owed the plaintiff a duty of care to protect him against the criminal acts of a third party.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and a friend were drinking at the defendant bar. While they were at the bar, there were no issues. However, at 3 a.m., when the bar closed, the plaintiff was attacked by another bar patron. The fight left the plaintiff permanently blinded.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the bar, arguing that the bar was negligent for failing to take any steps to protect him against the criminal acts of the other bar patron. In support of his claim, the plaintiff pointed to the fact that the police had been called five times the previous year for fights occurring in the bar’s parking lot immediately after closing.

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gray-and-black-semi-automatic-pistol-3602946-scaledShooting ranges are popular in Texas, but anytime someone handles a gun there is a risk for injury. Despite the safety procedures in place in most Texas ranges, accidents do occur, and individuals are sometimes shot, leading to injuries or even death. Like most accidents, Texas law allows victims to file a civil negligence suit to recover for their injuries against a negligent party who caused the accident. However, the requirements for filing a lawsuit against a shooting range are a bit more complicated, meaning some plaintiffs who misunderstand the statutory requirements for filing may have their suit dismissed regardless of its merits.

The Supreme Court of Texas recently considered a case that highlights these requirements. According to the written opinion, the plaintiff brought his loaded .22 caliber rifle to the defendant shooting range in December of 2016. He handed the gun to a range employee for a pre-entrance safety inspection, and during the inspection, the gun discharged and shot the plaintiff in the leg. As a result, the plaintiff suffered severe injuries that required extensive medical treatment.

In February of 2017, the plaintiff sued the shooting range and the employee who performed the inspection. The parties submitted an agreed-upon scheduling order, which was approved in April. The order provided a date by which all experts must be designated. In June of 2017, more than 90 days after the suit was filed, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, based on section 128.053 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. This section requires that a plaintiff suing a shooting range must serve an expert report on the defendants within 90 days of the original filing, unless that deadline is extended by written agreement. If a plaintiff fails to do so, their suit can be dismissed with prejudice. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs had not served them with an expert witness within 90 days, and thus the suit must be dismissed. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, argued that the scheduling order extended the deadline, even though it did not mention section 128.053.

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Photo Credit: KRIS TV

(February 20, 2020 Aransas Pass, TX) A 2-year-old girl fell into a septic tank Wednesday evening of the 19th at the Paradise Lagoons RV Resort in Aransas Pass.  The child identified as Charleigh Nicole Nelson had been walking on the lid of the tank when she fell in.

Rescue attempts were made by both family and neighbors, but they were unsuccessful.  The Rockport and Fulton Volunteer Fire Departments along with Aransas Pass FD were called out but they were also unable to rescue the toddler.  The rescue turned into recovery by calling in the Ingleside Volunteer Fire Department who was able to reach the body by lowering a firefighter into a 2 foot wide hole with a specialized rope.  The tank itself was filled with over 2 feet of water in which the child had been submerged for over an hour.

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Bryan, Texas, February 8, 2020:  A  second explosion happened at one of Chesapeake Energy’s oil wells in the Eagle Ford Shale just two weeks after a Jan. 29 deadly explosion at a Chesapeake Energy oil well site in nearby Burleson County. Three men were killed and one man was left hospitalized in the Burleson incident. Bryan Maldonado, 25, and Windell Beddingfield died in what is the deadliest oilfield accident since January 2018.

Authorities are investigating the accident which occurred about 1 a.m. Saturday at a storage tank on the company’s Luther lease off Sandy Point and Old San Antonio Roads in a rural area of Brazos County about eight miles northwest of Bryan.

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Photo Credit: KWTX

(BURLESON COUNTY, Texas,  Feb 3, 2020)  Three oil field contractors have died and another is still in the hospital after an oil well blowout and the resulting fire in Burleson County, Texas.

The accident happened at a well site near Deanville, on County Road 127 and FM 60,  southwest of Bryan on January 29th.  The Chesapeake Energy owned well was undergoing major maintenance operations by contractors employed by CC Forbes and Eagle Pressure Control when the explosion occurred.

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