This week, the Supreme Court of Texas issued five opinions. Two of these cases are of particular importance.
Occidental Chemical Corporation v. Jason Jenkins (Cause No. 13-0961)
In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether a previous property owner who created a danger on its property prior to the sale of the property owes both (1) a duty to warn of or make safe the dangerous condition under premises liability and (2) a duty to use reasonable care not to create the dangerous condition under negligence.
The Plaintiff, Jason Jenkins, suffered injuries while using an acid-addition system at a chemical plant. Jenkins sued Occidental claiming that it was negligent in designing the acid-addition system. Occidental designed and implemented the system 15 years before this accident, and Occidental sold the plant at which Jenkins was injured 8 years before this accident.
The Supreme Court held that the duty of a property owner who creates a dangerous condition on its own property stems from the owner’s control over the property; therefore, the duty arises under premises liability. Because the injury to Jenkins occurred after Occidental sold the plant, and Occidental no longer held ownership, possession, or control, Occidental had no means of assessing the system’s continued safety nor of training or supervising the people working on the system at the time of Jenkins’ accident. Therefore, Occidental owed no duty to Jenkins regarding the condition of the property. Instead, duty of care with regard to the condition of the property passed to the new owner at the time the plant was sold.
J&D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative Insurance Corporation (Cause No. 14-0574)
In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether a party may recover loss-of-use damages in addition to recovering the fair mark value of a vehicle deemed a total loss following a collision.
Here, J&D Towing lost its only tow truck in a motor vehicle collision. J&D Towing settled with the other driver’s insurance for the property damage policy limits, then filed a claim with its own insurance for loss of use damages.
The Supreme Court held that the owner of property that has been totally destroyed may recover loss-of-use damages in addition to fair market value when the loss-of-use damages are foreseeable and directly traceable to the accident, are not speculative, and are limited to a period no longer than reasonably needed to replace the property.