Inmate slip-and-fall dismissed for failing to follow Chapter 14 at appellate level

Frey v. Donnie Foster, Sheriff of Fannin County, et al., 06-13-00086-CV (Tex. App. – Texarkana, March 14, 2014).

This is a slip-and-fall premise defect case brought by an inmate and is governed by Chapter 14 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.  The case had previously gone up and down the appellate channel on different grounds. The case can be helpful information for anyone who encounters inmate litigation.

Frey slipped in the shower of the Fannin County Jail and fractured his ankle. He filed a petition complaining of the slip-and-fall, general conditions of the Fannin County Jail, and the medical treatment he received for his ankle.  Inmate litigation is governed by Chapter 14 of the Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. The prior appeal dealt with exhaustion of administrative remedies and was remanded because §14.005 (grievance system) only applies to claims that are subject to a grievance and been approved. After remand, the County filed another plea, this time attaching a handbook that was provided to Frey concerning grievance procedures, along with a letter from the Texas Commission on Jail Standards approving the grievance procedures.  The trial court granted the plea and Frey appeals.

The court first went through the typical applications of Chapter 14 to inmate suits. It noted that Chapter 14 also applies to appeals, so it required Frey to comply with the same filing requirements on appeal. Frey had filed neither an affidavit or unsworn declaration of previous filings nor a certified copy of his inmate trust account statement on appeal. After notification by the appellate court, Frey filed a list of prior lawsuits, but the County objected and provided certified copies of numerous other lawsuits Frey failed to include. Further Frey’s trust account filing did not show activity for the preceding six months as required. He filed a trust account statement for the six months prior to the date of the appellate letter, not the six months prior to his appeal filing. As a result, the Sixth Court of Appeals held Frey failed to follow Chapter 14 at the appellate level and dismissed his appeal. The court neither affirmed nor reversed the trial court orders, but simply dismissed the appeal, which has the effect of leaving the trial court orders intact.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Morriss, Justices Carter and Moseley. Opinion by Justice Moseley. The attorney listed for the County is Rex A. Ramos. The attorneys listed for Shah are Ramona Martinez and Stacy Bruce.  William Frey appeared pro se.