Husband’s testimony greasy area had cones, but warning was inadequate was enough to create fact issue on plea to the jurisdiction says 1st Court of Appeals in Houston

City of Houston v. Marion Crawford, 01-18-00179-CV (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.], October 9, 2018)

This is a premise defect case where the First District Court of Appeals in Houston affirmed the trial court order denying the City’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Crawford, a United Airlines passenger, was on a layover in the Houston airport.  Crawford alleged he slipped and fell due to a negligently maintained floor. Crawford asserted the City had actual knowledge of the defect and failed to correct it. Specifically, a greasy area of the floor had cones placed around the area.  She asserted first she was an invitee, but even if a licensee, the City had actual knowledge of the danger.  The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea so the  City appealed.

The court first determined Crawford was a licensee as slippery floors fall under ordinary premise defect theories. Next, to prove actual knowledge, the licensee must show that the owner actually knew of a “dangerous condition at the time of the accident.” The airport supervisor testified she reviewed the records and reports in the Airport Safety and Operations Compliance System (“ASOCS”) and found “no records or reports concerning notice of a dangerous condition, including grease or other liquid or foreign substance, or of any person slipping and falling or any incidents, in Terminal A for June 18, 2015,” or for the six months prior to that date.  Crawford’s husband testified he was walking ahead of her and observed cones around the greasy area of the floor, but that his wife did not see them prior to slipping. “Warnings must be taken in context of the totality of the circumstances.”  Crawford’s husband further testified  the cones failed to encompass the entire defective area, and that she slipped and fell outside the coned area.  Accepting as true all evidence favorable to Crawford, indulging all inferences in her favor, and resolving all doubts in her favor, the court concluded Crawford raised a fact issue regarding whether the City adequately warned her of the extent of the dangerous condition.  The plea was therefore properly denied.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of   Justice Keyes, Justice Bland and Justice Lloyd. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Lloyd.  The attorney listed for Crawford is Carl Gordon.  The attorney listed for the City is Fernando De Leon