Archive for the ‘Texas’ Category

Yellow Flag – Amusement Park Go-Kart Operator Not Liable for Injury from On-Track Collision (TX)

June 3, 2015

Weaver v. Celebration Station Properties, Inc. (Texas)

Kerri Weaver (“Weaver”) and her three children visited the defendant’s amusement park in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Weaver took one of her children on a go-kart ride at the facility and was involved in an on-track incident.  Another driver bumped Weaver’s go-kart, causing Weaver to suffer a heel fracture.  Weaver filed a state court action in Texas, alleging defendant’s “negligent failure to inspect the amusement area, adequately warn customers not to bump into other go-karts, train and supervise its employees, and instruct and train go-kart drivers, caused her injury.”  Additionally, Weaver filed a claim on behalf of her minor child for “bystander suffering.”  The defendant timely removed the case to federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction and, after discovery, moved to summary judgment, “arguing that it owed Weaver no duty to warn her about the open and obvious risks inherent in go-kart racing and, in any event, did not breach that duty.”

In opposition to the motion, Weaver argued that defendant “owed her a duty as a business invitee and breached this duty when it failed to guard against other reckless drivers.”  In her opposition, Weaver referred to her own deposition testimony and the deposition testimony of the defendant’s corporate representative.  However, Weaver failed to attach the deposition testimony to her opposition.  Defendant replied, reiterating its previous arguments and citing Weaver’s failure to attach the evidence.  Weaver filed a surreply, attaching the documents she failed to submit earlier, and the defendant moved to strike the surreply.

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Stuck Between a Dumbbell and a Hard Place – Fitness Club Members Claims RE Smashed Finger Dismissed (TX)

May 12, 2015

 

Grijalva v. Bally Total Fitness (Texas)

Plaintiff had been a member of defendant’s health and fitness club for many years.  When he joined, plaintiff signed a detailed Membership Application, which included waiver and release and assumption of risk language.  About a year after he joined, plaintiff was injured while lifting weights.  His finger was caught between his own weights and a set of weights that was left on the floor by another member, causing disfigurement and loss of use.  Plaintiff sued the defendant club for premises liability, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, breach of common law warranty, fraudulent inducement, and breach of contract.  In particular, plaintiff alleged that there were “several weights or dumbbells left around the various benches nearby [the bench where he was lifting weights] that were not returned to their regular and specific rack locations.”  A set of those weights left by another member caused plaintiff’s injury.  The intentional conduct claim was based on plaintiff’s allegation that the defendant failed to assist him “in mitigating the extent of his injuries to his finger” by “failing to summon medical assistance immediately.”

Defendant moved for summary judgment, contending (1) plaintiff had waived his right to pursue his negligence claims by executing the waiver and release provisions of the Membership Application, and (2) plaintiff could not provide evidence of all essential elements of his remaining claims.  Initially, plaintiff asserted that he did not sign a waiver and release in the Membership Agreement (he claimed that while he signed the second page of the agreement, the waiver and release provision is on the third page, which he did not sign), that he did not “speak and write English properly,” and that the club did not discuss the waiver and release with him.  He also argued that the waiver and release in the Membership Application did not meet Texas’ “fair notice requirement” because it was not conspicuous.  The trial court granted the club’s motion, dismissing plaintiff’s claims, and plaintiff appealed.

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Broken Record – Judgment in Favor of Scuba-Diving Instructor in Death Case Upheld (TX)

April 29, 2015

DeWolf v. Kohler (Texas)

In 2008, Terry Sean DeWolf died while scuba diving more than fifty miles off the coast of Massachusetts.  Initially, the medical examiner identified the cause of death as drowning, but later revised the conclusion to reflect that he died of natural causes (myocarditis).  Terry’ wife thereafter filed a lawsuit against numerous defendants, including (among others) the boat used for the dive, the individual who chartered the boat (Kohler), a television network which had carried a program on which Kohler had appeared, the dive-training company from which Kohler obtained credentials as a scuba-diving instructor, and the scuba-equipment manufacturer that manufactured the rebreather that Terry had used during the dive.  The wife alleged several claims, including violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act, the federal Death on the High Seas Act, and other state law claims.

Numerous motions were filed in this complicated lawsuit, and the trial court addressed many issues relating to personal jurisdiction and statutes of limitation.  Ultimately, Kohler was the only remaining defendant and the case proceeded to trial.  Following a jury trial, the court entered judgment in favor of the defendant, and the wife appealed.  On appeal, the wife challenged instructions that were given to the jury.

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The Art of Recreation – University Not Permitted to Assert Recreational Use Statute Protection Against Spectator Claim (TX)

April 21, 2015

University of Texas at Arlington v. Sandra Williams (Texas)

The plaintiff and her husband attended their daughter’s soccer game played at the football stadium at the University of Texas at Arlington.  She leaned against a gate that separated the stands from the playing field, and the gate unexpectedly opened, causing her to fall five feel to the artificial turf below.  Plaintiff injured a rib and her left arm and sued the University for premises liability, alleging negligence and gross negligence.  As part of its responsive pleadings, the University filed a motion to dismiss claiming (among other things) liability protection under the Texas recreational use statute.

Texas’ recreational use statute (like many similar statutes in other jurisdictions) protects landowners who open property for recreational purposes, limiting their liability to the recreational user.  In such cases, the burden of proof is elevated, requiring either gross negligence or an intent to injure.  Ultimately, the Texas Supreme Court affirmed the decision of both the trial court and the court of appeals and determined that a spectator at a competitive sports event is not “recreation” under the statute such that the liability protection did not apply.