In a recent Texas appellate case, a city appealed the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction in a lawsuit involving an injured child. The case arose when a 13-year-old was swimming in the city’s public pool. A 17-year-old was on duty as a lifeguard. The pool had rules prohibiting horseplay, and the pool manager was aware of these rules.
While taking a break from his job, the lifeguard was double bouncing swimmers from the diving board, which meant that two people would stand on the diving board, and one would bounce while the other dove. The pool manager may have been aware of this practice but didn’t object unless the people involved were small children. On the day in question, she didn’t try to stop the lifeguard from double bouncing. When the 13-year-old joined in, he was hurt on his turn. He and the dividing board collided, causing his patella to snap, breaking a small bone, and dislocating his knee. He needed surgery and had to convalesce for six months.
The City argued that it had sovereign immunity from suit except as set forth under the Tort Claims Act. The law allows for a governmental unit to be liable for an injury legally caused by a wrongful act or omission of an employee acting within his scope of employment. There can also be governmental liability for misuse by employees of tangible personal property. However, landowner liability is limited when the landowner lets his land be used for recreation under Texas Civ. Practice & Remedies Code section 75.002.