Safety Rules on back of release form is a separate agreement from release language on front says 13th Court of Appeals

ROLANDO BENAVIDEZ v. THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS – PAN AMERICAN, 13-13-00006-CV (Tex. App. – Corpus Christi, October 30, 2014).

This is an appeal from the trial court granting a plea to the jurisdiction for UPTA in a Texas Tort Claims Act case which the 13th Court of Appeals affirmed.

Benavidez fell from a climbing wall on the campus of UTPA. A UTPA employee testified that the figure-eight knot tied to his harness was either not tied properly or not tied at all. Before he climbed the wall, Benavidez signed a waiver/release from liability but on the backside of the form it listed several safety rules participants must follow.  Benavidez argued the safety rules applied to the UTPA belayer. UTPA filed a plea to the jurisdiction which the trial court granted.

The court went through a back and forth analysis of whether it could consider the affirmative defense of a release as part of a plea, but ultimately said since Benavidez did not object to its use that way, they would consider it without deciding if it was proper. The court held it would be improper to hold UTPA breached the release language since the safety rules on the back are not tied to the release language on the front. The separate sides of the paper constitute separate agreements. Further, the safety policies are for the attendees to follow, not UTPA staff. Violation of these safety rules is enforced by attendee’s loss of climbing privileges, which is not applicable to an employee. Since Benavidez released UTPA, the court did not address any of the other arguments on the appeal as they would not change the release. The grant of the plea is affirmed.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Valdez, Justice Rodriguez and Justice Garza.  Memorandum opinion by Chief Justice Valdez. The attorney listed for the University is Elsa Giron Nava. The attorneys listed for Benavidez are Thomas J. Henry, Russell Jackson and Russell W. Endsley