Supreme Court of Texas Blog: Legal Issues Before the Texas Supreme Court

No. 13-0947
TAMES

EDITH SUAREZ, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SURVIVING PARENT OF A.S. AND S.S., DECEASED, AND AS SURVIVING SPOUSE OF HECTOR SUAREZ, DECEASED v. THE CITY OF TEXAS CITY, TEXAS

Oral argument was held on January 14, 2015. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on June 19, 2015. File Closed

In the news...

Tracking 1 article about this case.

Opinion

June 19, 2015

Guzman
Hecht
Green
Johnson
Willett
Lehrmann
Boyd
Devine
Brown

Justice Guzman delivered the opinion of the Court.View Electronic Briefs | Oral Argument | Video PDF

 

Court of Appeals

Appellate District:1st Court of Appeals
Outcome Below:Reverse & Render
COA Docket No.:01-12-00848-CV
Opinion Author:Honorable Laura C. Higley

Trial Court

Trial Court:212th District Court
County:Galveston
Trial Judge:Honorable Susan Criss
Trial Docket:11CV1108

Entries on SCOTX Orders Lists

Docket Entries

Date Event Outcome  
2015-08-20 Case Stored  
2015-07-30 Mandate issued  
2015-06-25 Letter sent to parties from Supreme Court - See Remarks  
2015-06-19 Opinion issued   Court of Appeals' judgment affirmed
2015-06-19 Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record Issued
  This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between January 14, 2015 and June 19, 2015.  
2015-01-14 Oral argument  
2015-01-08 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
2015-01-08 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
  This case was waiting for oral argument between October 24, 2014 and January 8, 2015.  
2014-10-24 Petition for Review disposed Filing granted
2014-10-24 Case set for oral argument   Case set for oral argument
2014-10-24 Petition for Review granted
2014-09-23 Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)  
2014-09-12 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2014-09-12 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2014-09-11 Brief on the Merits (Respondent)  
2014-09-05 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
2014-08-07 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2014-08-06 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2014-07-14 Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)  
2014-07-07 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
2014-07-07 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
2014-06-16 Case Record Filed  
2014-06-12 Record Requested in Petition for Review  
2014-06-06 Brief on the Merits Requested  
  This case was waiting for a decision about briefing or a possible grant between April 8, 2014 and June 6, 2014.  
2014-04-08 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response disposed   Filing granted
2014-04-07 Response to Petition (Respondent)  
2014-04-07 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response  
2014-04-07 Call received  
2014-04-04 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
2014-03-04 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response  
2014-03-04 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response disposed   Filing granted
2014-01-31 Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response  
2013-12-31 Case forwarded to Court
2013-12-23 Response Waiver filed  
2013-11-26 Petition for Review (Petitioner)  

Parties

Party Counsel Role
Suarez, Edith
Mr. Alton C. Todd
Mr. Iain Gordon Simpson
Petitioner
City of Texas City, Texas
Mr. George W. Vie III
Respondent
 
 

Evidence needed to show gross negligence under the Recreational Use Statute

This is a suit against a city by the family of two girls and their father who were killed by rip currents near the Texas City Dike while swimming. The plaintiffs argue that the City should have posted more warnings or even closed the area to swimming because of the risk. The City lost its plea to the jurisdiction, but the court of appeals ruled in its favor, dismissing the claims. The petition argues that the claim should be allowed to move forward because, in part, warning signs that had previously been present signaled awareness of the problem — or at least would permit a fact-finder to draw such an inference.

The beach in question was damaged extensively by Hurricane Ike. When it reopened, after two years of repairs, the City did not replace all the warning signs that had previously been present. Those hsigns warned of the risks of swimming and diving.

The Texas Supreme Court granted the petition but ultimately affirmed the court of appeals, concluding that the evidence fell short of what would be required to show gross negligence: "[T]here is no evidence that the municipality had knowledge of concealed conditions at the beach creating an extreme risk of harm."

The Supreme Court noted that the case involved a recreational use of property and, thus, any claim against the landowner (the City) would have to prove gross negligence as defined in the statute, which requires both that the action involved objectively "involves an extreme degree of risk, considering the probability and magnitude of the potential harm to others" and that the defendant "has actual, subjective awareness of the risk involved, but nevertheless proceeds with conscious indifference to the rights, safety, or welfare of others." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §41.001(11).

The opinion focused primarily on the signage and, particularly, whether it represented prior knowledge of the particular risks involved. The Court held that it would be improper for a fact-finder to draw such an inference. The opinion invoked the equal-inference rule, concluding that generic signs about the risks of swimming were "equally consistent with mere knowledge of risks inherently associated with open-water swimming" and thus did not show "subjective awareness of and conscious indifference" to the specific types of marine hazards involved in this accident. As such, the Court concluded, they are not evidnece that the City was aware of risks beyond those that would already be known to a recreational swimmer.

Finding no evidence of gross negligence, the Court affirmed the court of appeals's dismissal.

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