Published on:

oil rigIn a recent Texas work injury case, the court considered a case in which a man was fatally injured while working on a drilling rig that was drilling a well on a lease owned by a company. The survivors of the man sued the company as well as his employer, claiming negligence and premises liability.

The company was the owner or operator of oil and gas leases and had contracted with the man’s employer, a drilling company, to drill a well on its mineral lease. The decedent and other rig hands were rigging up the rig to prepare for drilling. The decedent was working in the cellar, a substructure area of the rig, trying to repair a pipe that worked to vacuum fluid from the cellar.

He and other rig hands used a catline to lift the cellar jet line to make the repairs. While using the catline, it got caught in the cathead, causing the cellar jet line to rise suddenly and hit him in the head. This caused his death.

Continue reading →

Published on:

fire

A recent Texas injury case arose when a woman was inadvertently shot by a guest hosted by the defendant. She sued the defendant under theories of negligent activity and premises liability. He moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the motion.

She appealed. First, she argued it was a mistake for the lower court to grant summary judgment on her premises liability theory, since a gun was brought to a place where guests were imbibing alcohol. She believed this was gross negligence. Second, she argued it was a mistake for the lower court to issue a summary judgment on her claim of negligent activity.

The defendant had hosted an evening barbecue, and he’d invited his cousins, among others. The plaintiff was dating one of the cousins, who invited her to the barbecue. One cousin came with a small child, who played with the host’s son inside. The guests were outside drinking beer, but none of them appeared to be drunk.

Continue reading →

Published on:

diving boardIn 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.

Continue reading →

Published on:

tireA recent Texas appellate case concerns a cement truck crash that resulted in the driver’s death. The plaintiffs in the case argued that the crash was due to a failure of the front tire on the truck. They sued the tire manufacturer as well as the company that owned the cement truck.

During discovery, they asked the manufacturer to produce certain tire building machines that were used to put the liner and steel belts into the tires. The manufacturer objected and argued, among other things, that it asked for data that was confidential or a trade secret.

The plaintiffs moved to compel production of the tire building machines in order to compel discovery filed by Goodyear. The manufacturer responded with its manager’s declaration that the tires in question had stopped being produced in 2010 and that none of the tires now being produced had the same specs as the subject tire.

Continue reading →

Published on:

highwayIn a recent Texas appellate case, the representative of a decedent’s estate appealed a judgment in favor of the defendant. She argued that the court had abused its discretion by admitting the defendant’s written statement when it wasn’t properly notarized.

The case arose when a university student was driving on I-10 toward Houston. At around 5:30 in the morning, the defendant got on I-10 and began traveling west ahead of the student’s car. The student was traveling faster than the defendant and came up to his vehicle from behind. Later, the parties disagreed about what had happened, but the defendant’s car swerved, hit the concrete barrier, and rolled over, landing upside down. The cars didn’t collide, but the student was thrown from his car and died at the scene.

The decedent’s mother sued the defendant in a wrongful death and survival action, claiming negligence and gross negligence. The defendant was granted partial summary judgment with regard to the mother’s claims for punitive damages and damages under the survival statute.

Continue reading →

Published on:

motorcycleA recent Texas appellate case arose from a truck accident. The defendant testified that, on the accident date, he was driving in the left lane. It was rush hour, and following behind two other vehicles, he was coming to a construction zone. Since he hadn’t considered the recommended following distance, there was no room for other cars and trucks to merge in front of him. An 18-wheeler in front of the two vehicles he was following stopped, and traffic immediately stopped. The traffic was tight, such that driving into the right lane wasn’t possible. The two vehicles turned onto a grassy median, and the defendant followed them.

Later, the truck driver would testify that what happened was so fast, he wasn’t sure why he left the road instead of simply stopping. He veered off because he assumed something was in front of them on the road, and he didn’t want to risk touching the back of the truck. He hit the brakes as he left the road, and he believed he had to do so to avoid a collision. He didn’t look left before following, and he was going at the same rate as the cars around him.

When he moved left, he did see the plaintiff’s motorcycle located about a car behind him in his mirror. He believed that the motorcycle was moving fast on the shoulder and that it was illegal to use the shoulder. The motorcyclist drove onto the grass and lost control of his bike. The bike hit the defendant’s truck. The defendant didn’t think the back of his truck had left the shoulder yet, and he claimed that the plaintiff wasn’t in his path when he went left.

Continue reading →

Published on:

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.

Continue reading →

Published on:

excavatorIn a 2016 Texas truck accident case, the plaintiffs sued an excavating company. The accident caused a pileup, and when the sheriff investigated, it found that it was caused by the driver of an 18-wheeler. The trailer being pulled had the excavating company’s name and motor carrier number on it. The 18-wheeler hit a cement truck on I-30. Both moved toward the center guard lane, with the cement truck crossing over the guardrail and rolling, hitting vehicles in its path, including the plaintiff’s car. The front of the 18-wheeler also crossed the guardrail and wound up on the other side.

The plaintiffs intervened in a lawsuit filed by many other plaintiffs, including the driver of the cement truck. The claim of all of these accident victims was that the tractor-trailer driver’s negligence was the cause of the collision and that his employer under common law and the FMCSA regulations, as well as the Texas transportation code, was the excavating company, which was vicariously liable. The plaintiffs also argued the driver and truck driver were grossly negligent and sued the company for negligent supervision, negligent entrustment, negligent retention, and negligent hiring.

A jury trial was resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, such that the company was determined to be vicariously liable for its driver’s negligence. Judgment was rendered against the employer and the driver jointly and severally, and they were ordered to pay the plaintiffs a little less than $1 million.

Continue reading →

Published on:

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.

Continue reading →

Published on:

woodsIn a recent Texas appellate case, four people sued the City of Austin under the Texas Tort Claims Act and the recreational use statute. The case arose when a man driving under the influence drove off the street, jumped a curb, and drove onto a hiking and biking trail next to the road. The car and a traffic warning sign struck and killed two people who were walking, a man and a woman. The man died due to his injuries. The drunk driver was sentenced to five years in prison for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

The man’s survivors sued the drunk driver and the city. Against the city, they asserted claims of gross negligence, negligence, premises defect, and special defect and argued that the city had breached its duties under the recreational use statute. They claimed that the city failed to safely build the trail, knew of previous incidents when vehicles traveled over the curb and onto the trail in the same location, and failed to appropriately warn or repair the dangerous condition. They also argued that the city maintained policies that required it to repair the problem once a danger was identified and that their failure to build a barrier was a failure to carry out a ministerial action that the city’s own policies required.

The city claimed that governmental immunity barred the plaintiffs’ claims, since sovereign immunity wasn’t waived for its discretionary choices related to the design of the road and the safety features to be installed. The plaintiffs responded that there was no immunity because the failure to fix the danger on the trail was a negligent failure to implement its own policy, rather than an initial design or policy choice for which there was immunity.

Continue reading →