Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Torts No. 07-02-0449-CV, 6/10/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: The appellant, Kathy Houston, appeals the summary judgment granted by the trial court in favor of the appellees, Northwest Village Ltd. and Medlock Southwest Management Corp. The appellees are the owners of Northwest Village Apartments in Amarillo. Houston’s suit claims that she suffered personal injury when she slipped and fell on ice while delivering the Amarillo newspaper to residents of the apartments. The summary judgment evidence shows that the apartments are contained in 10 buildings on the apartment premises. On the morning of Feb. 1, 1999, Houston drove her car onto the premises, then walked to deliver the papers to the doorways of individual apartments. Snow had been on the ground for two days. On those two previous days, apartment maintenance personnel had cleared the snow off the apartment sidewalks and treated them with pellets of a chemical melting agent. They had not yet arrived for work at the time of Houston’s injury, so the sidewalks had received no attention that morning. Houston testified at her deposition that she normally did not walk on the sidewalks as she delivered the papers but was attracted to them that morning because they were cleared of snow. She noticed, though, that there was “shiny black ice” on the sidewalks. She fell, fracturing her ankle. The appellees’ resident apartment manager testified on deposition that she had not yet been outside her apartment at the time of Houston’s fall, and was not aware of the condition of the sidewalks. She also testified that she saw no ice on the sidewalks when she went outside after being notified of the incident; that she gave instructions for the melting agent to be applied to the sidewalks when maintenance personnel arrived; and that maintenance personnel later reported to her that they had encountered some frozen conditions on the premises. HOLDING: Reversed and remanded. Citing the test set forth in Cowart v. Meeks, 131 Tex. 36 (1938), and focusing only on Houston’s relationship with the appellees, the appellees argue that Houston’s status on the premises was that of a licensee because she had no business or other relationship inuring to the benefit of appellees from which the invitation required for invitee status can be implied. The appellees emphasize Houston’s testimony that she had no agreement with the apartment management concerning her delivery of papers, but had agreements only with individual tenants, and argue that Houston’s deliveries provided no economic benefit to appellees. The appellees’ duty to Houston was not determined solely by the nature of her relationship with appellees. In Parker v. Highland Park Inc., 565 S.W.2d 512 (Tex. 1978), the social guest of an apartment tenant was injured when she fell on hallway stairs in the apartment building. The stairway was dark because apartment employees had failed to adjust the automatic lighting. The Texas Supreme Court held that, with respect to the condition of parts of the premises over which a landlord retains control, the duty owed by the landlord to an invitee of a tenant is determined under the standard stated in Restatement (Second) of Torts ��360 and 361. Parkerfocuses not on the relationship between the landlord and the one entering the premises, but on that person’s relationship with the tenant. Here, there is at the least sufficient summary judgment evidence to raise an issue of fact regarding Houston’s status on the premises. Her presence on the premises enabled residents to receive the newspapers for which they had contracted, and thus was of sufficient direct benefit to the resident-customers to imply those residents’ invitation of her onto the premises for that purpose. The summary judgment evidence establishes that appellees owned and managed the apartments. A landlord’s duties to the invitees of its tenants include the duty to exercise reasonable care to discover unreasonably dangerous conditions on those parts of the premises over which the landlord retains control. Cadenhead v. Hatcher, 13. S.W.3d 861, 863 (Tex.App. – Ft. Worth 2000, no pet. h.). The appellees’ lack of actual knowledge of the condition of the sidewalks does not support summary judgment in their favor. The appellees’ motion for summary judgment pointed to the evidence that Houston had actual knowledge of the icy conditions as a bar to her recovery. Houston testified that she saw “shiny black ice” on the sidewalks before her fall. She also testified that the sidewalks had not been cleared of snow when she delivered papers the two previous mornings at about the same time, leading to a conclusion that she was aware the maintenance personnel would not yet have worked on the sidewalks at that time of day. The point might be well taken if the court agreed with the appellees that, as a matter of law, they owed Houston only the duties owed a licensee, see Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Miller, 46 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 530 (March 27, 2003) (per curiam), but because the court does not, her actual knowledge of the dangerous conditions does not necessarily prohibit her recovery against the appellees. State Dep’t of Highways & Pub. Transp. v. Payne, 838 S.W.2d 235 (Tex. 1992). OPINION: Campbell, J.; Johnson, C.J., and Reavis and Campbell, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 1 article* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.