Injury by fellow student wrestler not a “premise defect” says 13th Court of Appeals.

University of Texas – Pan Am v Gonzalez, No. 13-13-00153-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, August 15, 2013).

This is an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction connected with a personal injury case.

Gonzalez was enrolled in a wrestling class at the University of Texas – Pan Am (“UTPA”). Prior to beginning classes she signed a release and waiver agreement for any liability. Two months into class, Gonzalez was paired up with another female student who had arrived late that morning and missed the professor’s warning instructions. When the partner attempted the technique, she ended up tearing the ligaments in Gonzalez’ knee which required surgery. Gonzalez sued UTPA under the Texas Tort Claims Act. UTPA filed a plea to the jurisdiction which was denied by the trial court. UTPA appealed asserting sovereign immunity as well as a general waiver and release agreement.

Gonzalez first alleges the injuries resulted from a premise defect, although her argument stems from her status and an invitee, not any condition of the property. The only premise connection is that she asserts the premises was designed for gymnastics, not wrestling. After examining the pleadings, Gonzalez’ deposition testimony, and the definition of “premises” the Thirteenth Court of Appeals ruled the injuries were caused by another student, not the premises.  Further, the general negligence claims should be dismissed since there was no allegation that motor-driven equipment or tangible personal property were used.  The court reversed the denial and dismissed Gonzalez’ claims. It did not reach the release and waiver arguments.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.