Articles Posted in Premises Liability

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pexels-ian-panelo-3087484-200x300Many Texas companies hire independent contractors because of their cost-effective nature. With an independent contractor, companies can use the contractor for a particular project when it needs to be done and are free from being tethered to the particular contractor when the work is complete. When a contractor’s actions cause an accident, however, there is a question of liability on the company’s part. Is the contractor or the company responsible? It can often be a complicated question.

For example, in a recent Texas Supreme Court opinion, the court considered a case involving the liability of a company that hired an independent contractor. When a Texas utility company entered into a contract with an independent contractor, the utility company issued a work order for the independent contractor to remove a utility pole. To remove the pole, it needed to be pulled out of the ground, and then the hole would be filled with dirt. The independent contractor completed the project and filled the hole, and another company that the utility company contracted with to inspect the work of its contractors confirmed that the job was complete. The plaintiff was mowing her lawn when she stepped into a hole that was two and a half feet deep in the area where the pole had been removed. The plaintiff sued the utility company, its independent contractor, and the company responsible for checking the contractor’s work for negligence. The trial court and court of appeals sided with the defendants by granting summary judgment, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the utility company owed a duty to her to ensure that the independent contractor performed its job in a safe manner. Because the removal of the pole was inherently dangerous work and the utility company had a contractual right to control the independent contractor, they owed her a duty. However, the court disagreed and sided with the defendants, arguing that there was no duty on the part of the utility company to the plaintiff.

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CS-San-Antonio-9-300x300Recently, a Texas district court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from injuries a man suffered during a workplace altercation. According to the record, the plaintiff worked in a storeroom of a clothing store that is operated by a larger company. The plaintiff and another employee became involved in a verbal altercation requiring intervention from a supervisor. The supervisor presented the parties with the options to either quit their jobs, change shifts, or continue working together-they chose to continue working together. About a week after the verbal altercation, the men became involved in another argument, and the employee punched the plaintiff. Both of the men were terminated from their positions. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the parent company, arguing that they were liable for his injuries because of negligent hiring, negligent training, negligent supervision, retention, and monitoring. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, and the company appealed.

Among other issues, the company argued that they were not liable because the men were not employees of the parent company, but rather of a subsidiary. The company argued that the plaintiff did not establish that the defendant had an employment relationship with any of the parties involved, or that they controlled the subsidiary’s safety policies. Therefore, the jury’s finding was not supported by the evidence.

Under Texas laws, the court will sustain a sufficiency of the evidence challenge if there is a complete absence of an essential fact, the trial court is barred by the law to give weight to the evidence offered to prove a vital fact, if the preferred evidence is no more than a “mere scintilla,” or the evidence established the opposite of a vital fact. Evidence rises to a sufficient level if it would allow fair-minded people to differ in their conclusions. Further, if the evidence does not create more than a slight suspicion, it is not sufficient.

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Every year nearly 500 people in the US die from what is a preventable death: accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.  Nearly 50,000 people in the U.S. end up visiting emergency rooms each year due to CO poisoning. There are many ways to protect your family, loved ones, guests and renters.  Whether you’re at home or traveling, there are steps you can take to help keep yourself and others safe from CO poisoning.

Owners of hotels, rental properties and homes have legal obligations to make sure their properties are serviced and do not pose a risk of renters, friends, family or guests developing CO Poisoning.  Winter temperatures now mean an increase in heating systems running for hours which adds to the carbon monoxide risk.

Surprisingly, fumes are produced by more than furnaces.

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pexels-oliver-king-4067795-300x200Many Texans spend the majority of their time at work. As a result, San Antonio workplace accidents are very common, even for those with jobs that are not physically demanding. Indeed, an on-the-job accident can occur at any moment, and for almost any reason. Thus, all employees need to understand their options when it comes to recovering after a work-related accident.

There are two types of claims that a worker can bring after an on-the-job accident. The first, a workers’ compensation claim, is the more common of the two types of claims. The workers’ compensation system provides employees a simplified way to obtain compensation for a work-related accident without needing to prove that their employer was at fault. Because the workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system, these claims are typically quicker to process than traditional personal injury claims.

The main drawback of workers’ compensation claims is the availability of damages. Injured employees who successfully bring a Texas workers’ compensation claim can obtain benefits for their medical expenses, lost wages, and any decrease in earning capacity. However, unlike a personal injury case, a workers’ comp claim does not entitle an employee to non-economic damages.

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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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(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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(HOUSTON, January 27, 2020)  Two people were killed in a gas explosion in northwest Houston at a manufacturing warehouse on Friday the 25 at around 4:30 a.m. After the explosion the Houston Fire Department reported that 48 people had to be sheltered and 18 people were sent to local emergency rooms for injuries.

Officials have identified Gerardo Castorena Sr. and Frank Flores as the two victims who were killed in this fatal explosion.

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