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Injured on someone else’s property in Texas – What are your rights Texas law?

Jim M. Zadeh
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Attorney at Law

Under Texas law, a person injured on someone else’s property may pursue a claim and ultimately a lawsuit, against the owner of the Texas property if the claim or lawsuit meets certain requirements. This area of the law is often referred to as premises liability.

A person entering another person’s land is classified as an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser. An invitee is an individual who enters another’s premises as a result of an express or implied invitation of the owner or occupant for their mutual gain or benefit. For example, a customer in a restaurant is an invitee. A licensee is a person who enters another’s premises with the occupier’s consent but for his or her own benefit alone. A trespasser is one who intentionally enters another’s property without consent. This article will focus on an invitee’s rights. 

Generally speaking, premises liability is a type of ordinary negligence action brought by someone who claims to have been injured by a condition on the property. See Keetch v. Kroger Co. 845 S.W.2d 262, 264 (Tex. 1992). The elements that must be shown to prevail on a premises case brought by an invitee are that (1) the plaintiff was an invitee, (2) the defendant was a possessor of the premises, (3) a condition on the premises posed an unreasonable risk of harm, (4) the defendant knew or should have known of the danger, (5) the defendant breached its duty of ordinary care by both failing to adequately warn the plaintiff of the condition, and failing to make the condition reasonably safe, and (6) the defendant's breach proximately caused the injury. See Brinson Ford Inc. v. Alger, 228 S. W.3d 161, 162-63 (Tex. 2007).

 

 The third element of a premise defect claim requires the plaintiff to prove that a condition on the property is unreasonably dangerous. A condition is unreasonably dangerous if it presents an unreasonable risk of harm. Brinson Ford, Inc. v. Alger, 228 S.W.3d 161, 163 (Tex. 2007). "A condition poses an unreasonable risk of harm for premises-defect purposes when there is a sufficient probability of a harmful event occurring that a reasonably prudent person would have foreseen it or some similar event as likely to happen." County of Cameron v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 549, 556 (Tex. 2002). Whether a condition is unreasonably dangerous is ordinarily a fact question and there is no definitive test for determining whether a specific condition presents an unreasonable risk of harm. Pitts v. Winkler County, 351 S.W.3d 564, 573 (Tex. App. -- El Paso 2011, no pet.); Christus Health Southeast Tex. v. Wilson, 305 S.W.3d 392, 397 (Tex.App.--Eastland 2010, no pet.); Hall v. Sonic Drive-In of Angleton, Inc., 177 S.W.3d 636, 646 (Tex.App.--Houston [1st Dist.] 2005, pet. denied).

The fourth element of a premise defect claim requires the plaintiff to prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the unreasonably dangerous condition. Motel 6 G.P., Inc. v. Lopez, 929 S.W.2d 1, 3 (Tex. 1996). A plaintiff may prove notice by establishing that the owner actually knew the condition was dangerous or that it was more likely than not that the condition existed long enough to give the owner a reasonable opportunity to discover it. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Reece, 81 S.W.3d 812, 814 (Tex. 2002). Constructive knowledge, which is defined as knowledge that a person, after reasonable inspection, ought to have or has reason to have, may be imputed when the premises owner had a reasonable opportunity to discover and remedy an allegedly dangerous condition. Id.

Actual knowledge of an unreasonably dangerous condition can sometimes be proven through circumstantial evidence. City of Corsicana v. Stewart, 249 S.W.3d 412, 414-15 (Tex. 2008)(per curium). "Circumstantial evidence establishes actual knowledge only when it either directly or by reasonable inference supports that conclusion.” Id. Proof that a landowner created the dangerous condition may support an inference of knowledge. Keetch v. Kroger, Co., 845 S.W.2d 262, 265 (Tex. 1992).

So, if you were invited to a Texas property owner’s property and were injured on their property, you may have a claim under Texas law.