What Is Causation in A Premises Liability Case?
In Texas, there is a standard definition for proximate cause, which is given to the jury in every case. Proximate cause means a cause, which in a natural and continuous sequence causes an event. This is an element that we call the producing cause, meaning did A cause B? We add another element in Texas for actually producing, because in order to be the proximate cause of an event it must be foreseeable. Therefore, you have a cause in fact, plus foreseeability, and that gives you proximate cause. This is very technical, and it is something that untrained people do not think about. That is why you need to hire a lawyer who is familiar with these types of cases, and to sort the facts. We can see how they fit into these definitions.
These are very technical legal definitions, and there is case law that interprets them. It tells us what they mean, and in which case you have proximate cause, or you do not. That is why, if ever, God forbid, you are injured in an accident like this, you need a lawyer who understands this area of the law. There are only about three percent of lawyers in Texas who are board-certified personal injury trial attorneys. You want to make sure to definitely hire a lawyer who is board certified in personal injury law if you have a case just like this.
What Are the Components of A Viable Premises Liability Claim?
We can best illustrate that with an example. In March and April of 2015, our firm tried a case involving a dangerous skylight. It was a very significant case. There was knowledge on the part of the manufacture of the skylight. They were putting out dangerous skylights into the stream of commerce, and there were eighty-two of these skylights in the distribution center building in Fort Worth. One analysis is what are the elements for a premises liability case in that circumstance against the building owner? You have to prove that there are unreasonably dangerous conditions. There definitely was an unreasonably dangerous condition. In our case, there were eighty-two skylights on a flat roof; these skylights were one-eighth of an inch thick acrylic that the manufacturer knew would not support ninety-two pounds; they have known this since 1975.
Case number one is you are looking at the case against the building owner first. Was there a dangerous condition there? There definitely was. Nevertheless, we took it further, and analyzed whether the product itself was dangerous, or whether it was an unreasonably dangerous product. That involves product liability law, and in product’s liability law, you can prove a case one of three ways. You can prove that there were no adequate warnings about how dangerous this condition was, and we proved that. The jury found; you can prove that there was an unreasonably dangerous design, and we proved that, and the jury found that the third broad type of product’s liability case involving a dangerous product involves a defect in the actual manufacturing of that product.
In our case, with the jury involving the dangerous skylight, we were able to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. The manufacturer had a defective design, and that the manufacturer failed to warn adequately about this dangerous skylight. It was a terrible case with terrible injuries. Our client simply put his hand on the skylight as he was steadying himself to get up after putting on his tool belt, and he was up there changing out a motor on the roof of this manufacturing facility. His hand went through the skylight; he went thirty-seven feet down headfirst. Thankfully, he hit an air vent on the way down, which meant that he landed on his feet instead of his head, which would probably never have been a survivable fall from that high up on to concrete.
Because he landed on his feet, one of his legs was shattered. He did wind up losing his leg to amputation after seven months of trying to save the leg. He also had severe crush injuries to the spine, and had ten-inch metal rods for stability placed on both sides of his spine. These very severe, life-threatening injuries he survived, and in fact he is back to work at that same distribution plant. It was determined that it really was not the doing of the building owners, because the manufacturer had the knowledge of how dangerous these skylights were, and the jury found damages in that case that totaled a very substantial amount–I believe it was $33 million.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Premises Liability Claims in Texas?
If the theory is negligence, or product’s liability theory, it is two years, and that is two years from the date of the occurrence.
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