Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court conditionally granted Mobile Mini, Inc.'s petition for writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Mobile Mini's motion to designate a responsible third party in a construction worker's personal injury suit, holding that the trial court was obligated to grant Mobile Mini's motion to designate a responsible third party under the circumstances of this case.Mobile Mini, the owner of a construction trailer, was sued for injuries Luis Covarrubias received when a wind gust blew the door of the trailer closed on his hand. Mobile Mini filed a motion to designate Nolana Self Storage, LLC, the owner of the construction site, as a responsible third party so a jury could determine whether Nolana caused or contributed to Covarrubias's injury. The trial court denied Mobile Mini's request. The court of appeals denied Mobile Mini's mandamus petition. The Supreme Court conditionally granted the petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Mobile Mini's motion to designate Nolana as a responsible third party, holding that Mobile Mini's discovery response disclosing Nolana as a potentially responsible third party was timely even though it was served after the statute of limitations had expired on Covarrubias's tort claims. View "In re Mobile Mini, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this premises-liability case arising out of a brown recluse spider bite the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that the property owner failed conclusively to establish the absence of a duty and thus reversing the trial court's summary judgment in his favor, holding that the landowner owed no duty to his bitten invitee.Defendant leased a cabin to Plaintiff on property in Fredericksburg, Texas. Plaintiff accessed a neighboring home, also owned by Defendant, at Defendant's request and, while there, was bitten by a brown recluse spider. Plaintiff sued for negligence under a premises-liability theory. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that under the doctrine of ferae naturae, he owed no duty to Plaintiff with respect to indigenous wild animals that Defendant had neither introduced to nor harbored on the property. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendant. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant owed Plaintiff no duty as a matter of law under the circumstances of this case. View "Hillis v. McCall" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this negligence action, the Supreme Court held that an agreed scheduling order setting expert report deadlines, with no reference to Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 128.053(a), did not extend the statutory deadline to serve an expert report and that Plaintiffs' failure timely to serve an expert report entitled the shooting range's employee to seek dismissal.Plaintiffs sued a shooting range and its employee alleging negligence. The parties submitted to an agreed scheduling order, but the order did not specifically reference section 128.053. More than ninety days after Plaintiffs filed suit Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court denied dismiss, ruling that the agreed scheduling order extended Plaintiffs' section 128.053 deadline. The court of appeals dismissed all claims against the shooting range but allowed the claims against the employee to proceed on the basis that section 128.053(b)(2) does not apply to a shooting range employees. The Supreme Court held (1) the shooting range was correctly dismissed from the suit because the agreed scheduling order did not extend Plaintiffs' deadline to serve the expert report section 128.053 requires; and (2) the employee was entitled to dismissal with prejudice under section 128.053(b)(2) as an implicated defendant whose conduct was required to be addressed in an expert report. View "Shinogle v. Whitlock" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that none of the Texas Tort Claims Act's exceptions to a waiver of immunity applied in this case, holding that the riot exception applied and that the Tort Claims Act did not waive the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's immunity for Plaintiff's claims against it.In this case, a Department prison guard filed a skat shell at a group of prison inmates, injuring Plaintiff. Department officials had authorized and instructed the guard to use the tear-gas gun and shell in response to two groups of inmates who had refused to comply with orders from several prison officials for almost an hour. The Department filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that its sovereign immunity had not been waived for Plaintiff's claims. In response, Plaintiff asserted that a fact question existed as to whether the Act's emergency and riot exceptions applied to bar his claims. The trial court denied the Department's plea to the jurisdiction, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Act's riot exception applied as a matter of law and foreclosed waiver of the Department's immunity. View "Texas Department of Criminal Justice v. Rangel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this personal injury case where Plaintiff sued a state university for negligence the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of the university's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that the Recreational Use Statute applied and that the Tort Claims Act therefore did not waive the university's immunity with respect to Plaintiff's ordinary negligence claim.Plaintiff sued the University of Texas at Austin seeking damages for injuries she received when she was struck by a vehicle driven by a university employee while she was bicycling on university-owned property. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, arguing that the Recreational Use Statute classified Plaintiff as a trespasser and because Plaintiff failed to allege or produce evidence of conduct beyond ordinary negligence, the Tort Claims Act did not waive its immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the Recreational Use statute did not apply. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Recreational Use Statute applied; and (2) because Plaintiff did not assert claims premised on conduct involving malicious intent, bad faith, or gross negligence, the Tort Claims Act did not waive the University's immunity from suit. View "University of Texas at Austin v. Garner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court denying Defendant hospital's plea to the jurisdiction on Plaintiff's complaint alleging personal injury and death proximately cause by a condition or use of tangible personal property, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated both use and proximate cause.At issue was whether Defendant's use of an allegedly improper carrier agent during surgery constitutes negligent use of tangible personal property and, if so, whether sufficient evidence established that this use proximately caused the decedent's death. On appeal to the Supreme Court Defendant argued that because the carrier agent was properly administered during surgery, Plaintiffs complained only of negligent medical judgment, for which immunity was not waived. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that regardless of the manner in which the property was administered, when, as here, the claim was premised on Defendant's use of property that was improper under the circumstances and caused harm, this was sufficient to establish negligent use under the Texas Tort Claims Act. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

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In this wrongful death case arising from the deaths of two motorists whose vehicle struck an unbarricaded dirt mound completely blocking an unlit country road the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals dismissing the suit for want of jurisdiction, holding that Defendant, the City of Killeen, had actual notice as required by Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 101.101(c) of the Tort Claims Act.The decedents' relatives brought this suit alleging that the dirt mount was a "special defect" on the City's premises. The relative conceded that formal notice under section 101.101(a) was lacking but argued that the City had actual notice under section 101.101(c). The trial court denied the City's plea to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the case, holding that the evidence was legally insufficient to establish that the City had subjective awareness of its fault in producing or contributing to the decedents' injuries. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case, holding that the facts conclusively established that the City knew its investigators had concluded that the condition of a road under its putative jurisdiction contributed to the deaths of two motorists, and therefore, the City had actual notice of a claim within the meaning of section 101.101(c). View "Worsdale v. City of Killeen, Texas" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the judgment of the trial court granting summary judgment against Plaintiff on his suit seeking damages for an injury he allegedly sustained during his incarceration in the county jail, holding that Tex. Code Crim. Proc. art. 42.20 and Tex. Gov't Code 497.096, two statutes that generally protect governmental actors and entities from liability for their own negligence in connection with certain inmate activities, applied to the inmate's claims.Plaintiff filed this suit against Tarrant County alleging that he was injured after a defective chair collapsed during his treatment for diabetes. The trial court granted summary judgment for the County. The appellate court reversed, concluding that the statutes' liability standard of conscious indifference did not apply to at least some of Plaintiff's claims. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statutes applied to Plaintiff's claims to bar the County's liability and that Plaintiff failed to raise a material fact issue under the statutes' heightened liability standard. View "Tarrant County, Texas v. Bonner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this case in which an off-duty law enforcement officer fatally shot a suspect during the course of an attempted arrest outside his primary jurisdiction, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the trial court's denial of the officer's motion to dismiss, holding that the action was an "official capacity" suit that must be dismissed under the Texas Tort Claims Act.Plaintiffs sued the officer that killed their son in his individual capacity for wrongful death. The trial court denied the officer's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that, as a matter of law, the officer could not have been doing his job as a peace officer because a peace officer operating extraterritorially would not be obligated to make arrest under the circumstances. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a licensed peace officer acting under the warrantless-arrest provision in Tex. Code Crim. Proc. 14.03(g)(2) is within the general scope of the officer's employment for purposes of Tex. Civ. Proc. & Rem. Code 101.01(f); and (2) the officer in this case was sued in his official capacity and was therefore entitled to be dismissed. View "Garza v. Harrison" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In this defamation case, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court that a Newspaper was not entitled to summary judgment, holding that fact issues existed that precluded summary judgment.Specifically, the Court held (1) the court of appeals did not err in finding a fact issue on whether the statements at issue were substantially true; and (2) the court of appeals properly found that the Newspaper did not prove it was entitled to summary judgment on the ground that the editorial at issue in this case was protected opinion. View "Scripps NP Operating, LLC v. Carter" on Justia Law