This morning, the Texas Supreme Court issued opinions in eleven cases. None has to do with Texas arbitration law. Two have to do with premises liability actions, one of which seems to be an important case based on a quick skimming. We will blog on it in detail as time permits, hopefully later today.
For the rest, however, we will offer the following brief summary:
Brookshire v. Taylor. This is the seemingly important premises liability case. The majority opinion, written by Justice Hecht, holds that a soft drink dispenser with a propensity to spill ice which melts and becomes slippery is not an unreasonably dangerous condition. An actual rogue ice cube which has escaped to the floor could be, and it could be actionable if the store is aware of the melting (or melted) cube and yet fails to act. However, Justice Hecht notes that since the ice in question had not fully melted when it caused Ms. Taylor to slip, there could be no evidence that it existed long enough for the store to have constructive notice of its existence. In other words, its partially-frozen quality was in and of itself evidence that Ms. Taylor had no evidence that Brookshire had knowledge of the dangerous condition, according to Justice Hecht, and the trial court’s failure to grant summary judgment in Brookshire’s favor was reversed and remanded.
Justice Johnson’s concurrence highlights confusion in this area of the law between traditional premises liability claims, which emphasize the condition of the premises, and negligent activity claims, which emphasize the property owner’s activity on the premises. He notes that the Court’s 1992 decision in Keetch v. Kroger signifies a refusal by the Court to preclude negligent activity actions and subsume them into premises liability claims, but he expresses a desire that the Court re-examine the distinction, an opportunity he says the Taylor case did not provide.
Finally, in her dissent, Justice O’Neill writes that summary judgment was inappropriate, even if Brookshire was unaware of the danger of the specific ice cube that injured Ms. Taylor. She alludes to the negligent activity standard which is the subject of Justice Johnson’s dissent, but she does not specifically rely on it. Instead, she concludes:
Like the defendant in Rodriguez, Brookshire may not have been able to prevent ice from falling on the floor, but it had a duty to customers to prevent the ice that did fall from causing a dangerous condition. Given the evidence that Brookshire was aware ice falling on the exposed tile floor was a continuous problem but did not provide additional matting or warning signs to make the area safe, a question of fact exists as to whether Brookshire had constructive knowledge of an unreasonably dangerous condition.
Bulanek, et al. v. Westtex 66 Pipeline Co.. Pipeline easement condemnation case.
Barker, et al. v. Eckman. Bull semen breach of bailment case. The opinion discusses the statute of limitations that applies in bailment cases, and an issue relating to attorneys’ fees. Specifically, the opinion discusses the situation where a trial court awards a prevailing plaintiff attorneys’ fees but the court of appeals subsequently reduces the damage award, but still holds that the plaintiff was entitled to some recovery (just not as much). In such a situation, should the jury be allowed to re-assess the attorneys’ fee award after the appellate reduction of the damages award, as “results obtained” was a factor used in making the fee award? In this case, yes, according to the Court.
Lexington Insurance Co., et al. v. Strayhorn. Case involves the taxation of insurance premiums in Texas and the question of who should pay that tax.
Tran, et al. v. Macha. Adverse possession of a driveway by a longtime neighbor stemming from a contractor’s error in the 1930s that caused him to assume lots were 50 feet wide, rather than 55 feet, and build houses on them accordingly. Fascinating, really.
DPS v. Alford. DWI case involving the administrative suspension of a commercial driver’s license.
City of Dallas v. Thompson. Another premises case, this one against the City of Dallas based on a missing screw at Love Field. Not as broad and seemingly important as the Brookshire case, but has some things maybe worth blogging a bit more about, if time permits.
Chisholm v. Chisholm. Divorce case. Supreme Court reverses a divorce decree on the basis that it was not in fact agreed-on when the trial court entered it. Has some interesting dicta about family law practice in Bexar county. We don’t do family law, but it seems the case presents a very practical issue that must come up a lot in those proceedings.
In the Interest of H.R.M.. Termination of parental rights case.
In the Interest of R.R. and S.J.S.. Another termination of parental rights case.
City of Waco v. Abbott Open records case involving the potential confidentiality of victim names in arrest warrant affidavits. The opinion simply vacates the Court of Appeals’ opinion based on a subsequent settlement.