“Wet floor” warning sign sufficient as a matter of law to warn of dried but slippery wax on floor under TTCA says Beaumont Court of Appeals

 Montgomery County v. David Lanoue, 09-16-00195-CV (Tex. App— Beaumont, December 29,2016)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) slip-and-fall case where the Beaumont Court of Appeals reversed the denial of the County’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the case.

When Lanoue entered the Montgomery County Courthouse, the floor had recently been mopped and waxed. The County placed a sign in the area noting the floor was wet. Lanoue asserted the sign was confusing since the floor looked dry, and the sign did not say he should watch out for wax, only that the floor was wet. The undisputed evidence included a still photograph of Lanoue in mid-fall, right next to the warning sign. When he entered onto the floor he slipped, fell and was injured. The County filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting it met is duty to warn of the dangerous condition. The plea was denied and the County appealed.

Premises owners have a duty to either “warn a licensee of, or to make reasonably safe, a dangerous condition of which the owner is aware and the licensee is not.” Lanoue asserted the “wet floor” warning sign was inadequate because the floor was actually dry, but was covered with a slippery wax.  However, “[a] warning of the specific material causing a condition is not required, so long as the existence of the condition itself is conveyed.” The warning need not identify the specific substance that made the floor wet. Therefore, the court held that the “’wet floor’ sign inches from the location where Lanoue fell was adequate as a matter of law to warn Lanoue that the floor was slippery.”  The plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The Panel includes Chief Justice McKeithen, Justice Horton, and Justice Johnson.  Chief Justice McKeithen delivered the opinion of the court. Attorney for the County: Daniel Plake. Attorneys for Mr. Lanoue: Kenna M. Seiler and Dennis R. Mundy.

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