In 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.
They argued that the plaintiff didn’t have evidence on these points. Among other things, they argued nobody had told them there was a raised seam in the floor of the apartment, and the plaintiff didn’t have evidence about how long this bump was there or how a reasonable inspection might have found it.
The defendants argued that the evidence conclusively showed that the plaintiff couldn’t meet several elements of his different causes of action. For example, the plaintiff had testified at deposition he moved into his apartment on December 31st, but he didn’t use his bathroom until the night of January 1st, and he didn’t notice the raised seam because it was small, so he didn’t tell the defendants about the raised seam until about 30 minutes after falling. He notified them by calling the maintenance request line. A maintenance worker had come within 30 minutes, and repairs were made a few days later as promised.
Proceeding with an attorney, the plaintiff responded to the defendants’ motion by saying he had limited vision because of an eye condition. He attached medical records related to his glaucoma, as well as his neck and back pain. The defendants responded his vision was irrelevant.
The court granted the motion for summary judgment but didn’t say why. The plaintiff asked for the opportunity to subpoena his doctors for more evidence about his medical condition. The defendants objected. The motion was overruled. The plaintiff appealed.
The appellate court explained that someone who is hurt on someone else’s property can have either a premises liability claim or a negligence claim. If an injury is a result of a contemporaneous activity, the analysis is for ordinary negligence. But if the injury arises due to a dangerous property condition, premises liability principles apply. The record showed that the plaintiff hadn’t alleged any contemporaneous activity on the premises and had cited to no evidence showing actual knowledge.
He also didn’t provide evidence about how long the seam had existed by the time he fell in order to show constructive notice. There was nothing in the record to show that the defendants had failed to inspect the property as often as they reasonably should have or that the condition had been there for so long they had constructive notice of it.
The judgment was affirmed.
If you have been injured as a result of an accident on someone else’s property, the San Antonio premises liability attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.