The Texas Supreme Court handed down five opinions this morning. None is about arbitration, so we’ll give them short shrift here.
City of San Antonio v. TPLP Office Park Properties is a discussion of the City of San Antonio’s potential police power to close access to certain roadways in order to address residents’ complaints about commercial traffic in their neighborhood. Cause No. 04-1130.
In Norris v. Thomas, a five-justice majority holds that a boat cannot be a homestead (and thus protected from creditors) under the Texas Constitution, even if it’s a really big boat that is the primary residence of the debtor. “In order to qualify as a homestead, a residence must rest on the land and have a requisite degree of physical permanency, immobility, and attachment to fixed realty. A dock-based umbilical cord providing water, electricity, and phone service may help make a boat habitable, but the attachment to land is too slight to warrant homestead protection.” The opinion provides a nice history of Texas’ homestead protection. Cause No. 05-0476.
Justive O’Neill wrote the dissent in Norris, arguing that the majority set forth a “cramped interpretation of homestead.” Since the Norris family actually lived on the boat, and since the majority acknowledged that it was in fact their home, the dissent argues that it ought to be given homestead protection.
State Farm v. Martinez addresses the effect an insurance carrier’s interpleader of claim funds has on the Texas prompt payment of claims statute. Cause No. 05-0812.
Wachovia v. Gilliam reverses a default judgment where substituted service was not made on the defendant at the defendant’s proper address. Cause No. 05-0903
In Jack in the Box v. Skiles, the Court reverses a Fifth Court of Appeals opinion and renders summary judgment in favor of Jack in the Box in a case where one of its truck drivers was injured on the job delivering some meat (Jack in the Box is a non-subscriber to workers’ compensation insurance). According to the Court, its earlier opinion in Kroger v. Elwood means that an employer has no duty to warn an employee about an obviously dangerous condition (we blogged on the Kroger case back in May). In this case, Kroger means that the truck driver could not recover against Jack in the Box for injuring his knees trying to jump over a broken lift gate on his truck, even though a Jack in the Box manager pressured him into doing so during a busy lunch hour when meat was scarce. According to the Court, since doing what the manager wanted was obviously dangerous, Jack in the Box did not have a duty to warn its employee of the danger. Cause No. 05-0911.