Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
J&D Towing, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp.
J&D Towing, LLC, a towing company, owned only one tow truck that was rendered a total loss when a negligent motorist collided with the truck. J&D filed a claim with American Alternative Insurance Corporation (AAIC) under an underinsured-motorist policy issued by AAIC requesting compensation for the loss of use of the truck. AAIC denied the claim. Thereafter, J&D sued AAIC seeking loss-of-use damages. The trial court entered judgment in favor of J&D. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Texas law allows loss-of-use damages for partial destruction but not for total destruction of personal property. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases. View "J&D Towing, LLC v. Am. Alternative Ins. Corp." on Justia Law
Occidential Chemical Corp. v. Jenkins
In 2006, Jason Jenkins was injured while using an acid-addition system at a chemical plant. The acid-addition was added to the plant in 1992 by Occidental Chemical Corporation. Occidental sold the plant to Equistar chemicals, L.P., Jenkins’s employer, in 1998. Jenkins sued Occidental, among other defendants, alleging that Occidental’s negligent design of the acid-addition system caused his injuries. Occidental affirmatively pled two statutes of repose. After a jury trial, the trial court rendered judgment that Jenkins take nothing, concluding that the verdict supported at least one of Occidental’s repose defenses. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Jenkins’s claim was based on Occidental’s negligent design of the acid-addition system, a theory that survived Occidental’s sale of the property and continued independently of any premises-liability claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a claim against a previous owner for injury allegedly caused by a dangerous condition of real property is a premises-liability claim, regardless of the previous property owner’s role in creating the condition; and (2) because the previous owner sold the property several years before Plaintiff’s accident and did not otherwise owe Plaintiff a duty of care, the court of appeals erred in holding Occidental liable for the dangerous condition and Jenkins’s injury. View "Occidential Chemical Corp. v. Jenkins" on Justia Law
Texas Dep’t of Pub. Safety v. Bonilla
Plaintiff was injured in an automobile accident that occurred when a Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) trooper ran a red light while pursuing a reckless driver. Plaintiff filed suit against DPS, relying on the Texas Tort Claims Act’s sovereign-immunity waiver. DPS filed a combined motion for summary judgment and plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that it retained immunity from suit based on the trooper’s official immunity and the emergency-response exception to the Tort Claims Act’s immunity waiver. The trial court denied DPS’s motion and plea. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding, inter alia, that DPS failed conclusively to establish the good-faith element of its official-immunity defense, and DPS’s summary judgment was incompetent to establish good faith because it failed to address whether the trooper considered alternative courses of action. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court of appeals applied an inaccurate good-faith standard and erred in concluding that DPS failed to adduce evidence addressing alternatives to pursuit. Remanded. View "Texas Dep’t of Pub. Safety v. Bonilla" on Justia Law
Galvan v. Memorial Hermann Hosp. Sys.
Plaintiff sued Hospital, alleging that she was injured when she slipped on water on the floor. Hospital filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that Plaintiff’s claim was a health care liability claim (HCLC), and Plaintiff failed to serve an expert report as required by the Texas Medical Liability Act. The trial court denied Hospital’s motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that because Plaintiff’s claim was based on an alleged departure from accepted standards of safety, it was an HCLC. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that no substantive nexus was shown to exist between the safety standards Plaintiff alleged Hospital violated the the provision of health care, and therefore, Plaintiff’s claim was not a health care liability claim. View "Galvan v. Memorial Hermann Hosp. Sys." on Justia Law
Reddic v. E. Texas Med. Ctr. Reg’l Health Care Sys.
Plaintiff, a visitor at Hospital, fell when she slipped on a floor mat in the hospital lobby. Plaintiff sued Hospital on a premises liability theory. Hospital asserted that Plaintiff’s claim was a health care liability claim (HCLC) under the Texas Medical Liability Act, and therefore, the claim must be dismissed because Plaintiff did not serve an expert report as required by the Texas Medical Liability Act. The trial court denied Hospital’s motion to dismiss. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the floor care of the hospital lobby had an indirect relationship to the provision of health care that was sufficient to satisfy the safety prong of the Act, and therefore, Plaintiff’s claim was an HCLC. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the record did not reflect a substantive nexus between the safety standards Plaintiff claimed Hospital violated and Hospital’s provision of health care. View "Reddic v. E. Texas Med. Ctr. Reg’l Health Care Sys." on Justia Law
Lawson v. City of Diboll
Plaintiff, a spectator at a youth softball game was injured in a trip-and-fall accident while exiting a baseball complex in a City park. Plaintiff filed a premises-liability lawsuit against the City, alleging that the City violated its duty of ordinary care by creating an unreasonable risk of harm and failing to provide a safe walkway passage. The City filed a plea to the plea to the jurisdiction asserting that it retained its immunity from suit under the recreational use statute, which raises the liability standard required to trigger the Texas Tort Claims Act’s immunity waiver in premises-defect cases involving lands opened to the public for “recreation.” The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that spectating at a sporting event constitutes recreation. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that spectating at a competitive-sporting event is not “recreation” under the recreational use statute. Remanded. View "Lawson v. City of Diboll" on Justia Law
Cosgrove v. Cade
In 2011, Respondents sued Petitioner over two acres of land that Petitioner purchased from Respondents in 2006 through a trust. The deed mistakenly - but unambiguously - failed to reserve mineral rights. When Respondents discovered the error, they demanded that Petitioner issue a correction deed, but Petitioner claimed that the statute of limitations barred Respondents’ claims over the deed. Respondents urged the trial court to declare as a matter of law that the deed did not convey mineral rights and argued that Petitioner breached the sales contract by refusing to execute a correction deed. The trial court ruled that Respondents’ claims were time-barred. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the discovery rule delayed the accrual of limitations for a deed-reformation claim. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a plainly obvious and material omission in an unambiguous deed is not a type of injury for which the discovery rule is available because it charges parties with irrefutable notice for limitations purposes; (2) Tex. Prop. Code Ann. 13.002 provides all persons, including the grantor, with notice of the deed’s contents as well; and (3) therefore, a grantor who signs an unambiguous deed is presumed as a matter of law to have immediate knowledge of material omissions. Accordingly, Respondents’ suit was untimely. View "Cosgrove v. Cade" on Justia Law
Cantey Hanger, LLP v. Byrd
At issue in this case was the scope of attorneys’ immunity from civil liability to non-clients. Philip Byrd and Nancy Simenstad commenced divorce proceedings. Simenstad was represented in the proceedings by Cantey Hanger, LLP. The parties eventually settled. The decree awarded Simenstad three aircraft as her separate property, including a Piper Seminole that had been owned by Lucy Leasing, Co., LLC. Byrd and two of the companies awarded to Byrd in the decree later sued Simenstad and Cantey Hanger alleging that after the decree was entered, Defendants falsified a bill of sale transferring the Piper Seminole from Lucy Leasing to a third party in order to shift tax liability for the aircraft to Byrd in contravention of the divorce decree. The trial court granted summary judgment to Cantey Hanger on attorney-immunity grounds. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the firm’s alleged misconduct was unrelated to the divorce litigation and that the firm had not conclusively established its entitlement to immunity. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment, holding that Canter Hanger conclusively established that it is immune from civil liability to Plaintiffs, and therefore, the trial court’s grant of summary judgment was proper. View "Cantey Hanger, LLP v. Byrd" on Justia Law
Suarez v. City of Texas City
This premises-liability case arose from the drowning deaths of a young father and his twin daughters at a man-made beach. The mother and surviving spouse of the decedents (Plaintiff) filed suit against the City of Texas City alleging that the deaths resulted from a peculiar risk of harm created by a confluence of artificial and natural conditions at the beach and that the the City was grossly negligent in failing to warn or protect the public against those dangers. In bringing suit against Texas City, Plaintiff averred that governmental immunity was waived. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that Plaintiff’s pleadings and evidence were insufficient to support jurisdiction. The trial court denied the jurisdictional plea. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the claims for want of jurisdiction. At issue on appeal was whether there was evidence of the City’s liability to invoke the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of governmental immunity, as limited by the recreational use statute. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff failed to produce sufficient evidence to invoke the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of immunity from suit. View "Suarez v. City of Texas City" on Justia Law
Zorilla v. Aypco Constr. II, LLC
At issue in this residential construction dispute was whether the statutory cap on exemplary damages is waived if not pleaded as an affirmative defense or avoidance. The trial court affirmed an exemplary damages award in excess of the statutory cap because Petitioner did not assert the cap until her motion for a new trial. The court of appeals affirmed the exemplary damages award, concluding that the statutory cap on exemplary damages did not apply because Petitioner failed to expressly plead the cap as an affirmative defense. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the court of appeals’ judgment in relation to the exemplary cap, holding (i) the exemplary damages cap is not a matter ”constituting an avoidance or affirmative defense” and need not be affirmatively pleaded because it applies automatically when invoked and does not require proof of additional facts, and (ii) because Petitioner timely asserted the cap in her motion for new trial, the exemplary damages must be capped at $200,000; and (2) affirmed in all other respects. View "Zorilla v. Aypco Constr. II, LLC" on Justia Law