Plaintiff allowed to replead to establish premise defect after door design case dismissed

CAMERON COUNTY v. SUSAN ANN VANO, 13-13-00114-CV (Tex. App. –  Corpus Christi, May 15, 2014).

This is an appeal from the denial of a summary judgment asserting jurisdictional defenses under the Texas Tort Claims Act (essentially an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a jurisdictional defense). The 13th Court of Appeals reversed but remanded for further action.

Vano entered the Cameron County Courthouse to serve on jury duty when a door slammed shut into your right shoulder after an unidentified man exited the stairway. She sued the County asserting the premises was poorly designed, door had no window and the door insufficiently secured creating a dangerous premise defect. The County moved for summary judgment asserting the design of the area was a discretionary action for which immunity is not waived, the door must remain unsecured under fire code regulations and the non-county employee who caused the door to slam shut was the cause-in-fact. The door merely furnished the condition that made the injury possible. The trial court denied the motion and the County appealed.

The court first held the design claims were discretionary functions and the County was entitled to immunity for such claims. However, the Court then noted that in this case the panel felt it proper to remand and allow Vano the opportunity to replead since the defects may not be incurable. Further, the court held Vano did not yet plead a premise defect case and since the remaining arguments of the County were based on a premise defect which were not pled, the court declined to rule on them. The case was reversed and remanded. [Comment: In other words, the panel gave the Plaintiff’s attorney a roadmap and second chance on how to potentially plead jurisdiction for the case].

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Rodriguez, and Justice Garza. The attorney for the County is listed as Analisa Figueroa.  The attorneys listed for Vano are Sara Stapleton and Hon. Edward A. Stapleton III.