El Paso Court of Appeals holds automatic gate was not unreasonably dangerous simply because it could close automatically

City of El Paso v. Maria Pina, No. 08-20-00159-CV (Tex. App. — El Paso, Aug. 8, 2022)

This is a premise defect case under the Texas Tort Claims Act where the El Paso Court of Appeals held an automatic gate is not unreasonably dangerous simply because it can close automatically.

Pina was involved in a motor vehicle accident with an automatic gate on city property. The entrance gate at the El Paso Police Academy closed on Pina’ car as she was driving onto the premises to attend a class. Pina claims that as she approached the gate, cars were freely entering and exiting, and the gate was not closing between vehicles. Thus, she was not aware the gate could close automatically while a car was going through it. As her vehicle was traveling through the gate, it began closing and struck her car. The collision damaged her vehicle and caused her to sustain bodily injury, according to the allegations in her petition. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting it had no actual knowledge of a dangerous condition prior to the incident and that no dangerous condition existed.

The court held that an automatic gate, simply because it opens and closes automatically on its own, is not an unreasonably dangerous condition. The key is whether it poses an unreasonable danger by virtue of its mere existence, which it does not. No evidence was submitted to indicate it was malfunctioning or posed any danger different from the normal conditions under which it operates. The court emphasized the “unreasonably” language as a requirement. A condition is not unreasonably dangerous simply because it is not foolproof. A premises owner is not an insurer of invitees to its premises. Further, no evidence existed that the City had actual knowledge the gate posed an unreasonably dangerous condition. Simply because the City knew the gate closed automatically is not actual knowledge of a dangerous condition. As a result, the plea should have been granted. The order was reversed and judgment rendered for the City.

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