As a North Texas personal injury lawyer who has represented seriously injured motorists, motorcycle riders, and bicycle riders over the past 32 years -- and as an occasional bike rider -- I was dismayed by last week's decision by the plaintiff-hating Texas Supreme Court. I have written about the biased decisions of our Court on many occasions, so I am not surprised by its latest business-sided ruling, but I wanted to call it to your attention.
In City of Denton v. Paper, 11-0596, the court held that a North Texas woman who suffered major injuries when her bicycle's front wheel unexpectedly fell into a large hole in the road and caused her to crash was not entitled to receive any money. The court reversed the trial judge and the Fort Worth Court of Appeals, which had denied the City of Denton's motion for
summary judgment, by finding that a hole almost a pencil length deep was not a special defect in the road.
Under Texas premised liability law, the liability of a governmental unit is limited from these claims unless a special defect -- only the examples of an excavation or obstruction on a road are provided in the statute-- is involved. Otherwise, the plaintiff assumes the rights and responsibilities of a licensee, not an invitee, and his burden of proof is almost impossible. He must show that the unit committed either wilful acts or omissions or committed gross negligence. And further, he must prove that the government had actual knowledge of the defect and the user did not, in which case the governmental unit is required to either make the condition safe or warn the licensee.
Here, the City of Denton had drilled a large hole on a residential street to install a sewer tap and sealed and leveled the pavement, but reopened the hole and apparently did a poor job sealing and leveling it. It must have known about the defect it wilfully created, right?Rachel Paper crashed a week later and had to file suit to attempt to recover her damages. Her attorneys presented evidence in court that the hole was large and had caused her crash.
However the Supreme Court went well out of its way to mimimize the size of the hole, stating that since it wasn't a "ditch" almost one foot deep and nine feet wide like in another case it had decided, it was just an ordinary defect. Huh? Worse, it found that Rachel could have easily gone around the hole, even though she was boxed in by other vehicles and the hole was in the middle of her lane of traffic. The court chose to agree with the self-serving affidavit from a city supervisor stating that the road was level.
The Court established draconian requirements for bringing these injury claims in the future in yet another victory for the insurance companies, big business, and governmental entities.
If you have been injured in a motor vehicle, motorcycle, or bicycle collision, please contact me and I will fight to make sure you receive the money you deserve.