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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:As an affiliate of Chi Energy Inc., an oil and gas speculation and development company, Chi Operating Inc. maintains daily management functions for oil well operation. Chi Operating contracted with Petroplex Equipment and others to construct the infrastructure and improvements to a new well in Ward County. Petroplex was to serve as a site consultant to get the well into production. Chi Operating also had an oral agreement with West Texas Roustabout and West Texas Tank to provide roustabout services for the well. Norman Pallanes owed WTR, and Gilbert Urias was a WTR employee. In April 2001, WTR and other independent contractors performed work on the new well. Once the well was completed, additional construction and installations had to be made to get the well to produce. Critical to getting production started was the installation of a water tank provided by WTR. WTR delivered reconditioned tanks to the site over a three-day period, and installation commenced immediately after delivery. Despite a decision by Petroplex’s owner, Oren Albright, to close the site on April 6 due to inclement weather, Pallanes nevertheless dispatched a welding team to the site to remove some extraneous fittings. Though some other workers were at the site when Pallanes, Urias and others arrived to perform the welding work, everyone except Pallanes, Urias and one other welder left. The welder applied heat for approximately 8 to 10 minutes to the fittings on the tank, but the fittings wouldn’t budge. Pallanes sent the welder to the truck for more tools. While the welder was at the truck, the tank exploded, killing Pallanes and Urias. Survivors of the two men sued several different defendants, and a jury awarded the survivors $7.88 million. Another roustabout service settled. Chi Operating and Chi Energy appealed. HOLDING:Reversed and rendered. The court examines the evidence to see if it was factually and legally sufficient to sustain the award. The court notes that the Legislature amended the Civil Practice & Remedies Code in 1996 to include Ch. 95 as part of a sweeping tort-reform package. Chapter 95 pertains to damages caused by negligence of property owners, as defined by 95.001(3). Furthermore, Ch. 95 specifies that it applies only to claims: against a property owner, contractor or subcontractor or contractor or subcontractor employees; that arise from the condition or use of an improvement to real estate; where the contractor or subcontractor constructs, repairs, renovates or modifies the improvement. The court adds that, in order to be held liable under Chapter 95, the plaintiff must prove that the property owner exercised or retained some control over the manner in which work was performed (other than the right to order the work to stop or start, or to inspect), and that the property owner had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition that caused the death or injury. The court finds Chapter 95 applicable to the claims in this case, and then says there is no evidence to show control or actual knowledge. To impose liability on Chi Energy or Chi Operating, the decedents’ survivors had to prove that the degree of control over WTR and WTT included more than the right to stop, start or inspect work. The court finds the record “completely devoid” of evidence suggesting that either Chi defendant had any right of control of the work at the site, “and certainly none over the specifics of the work performed by the employees of WTR or WTT.” The court says the undisputed evidence actually establishes the contrary fact as a matter of law. “Here, we see no evidence to support a finding that the [Chi Energy or Chi Operating] retained any control over the”operative details’ of the work. Similarly, we find no evidence to support the finding that [Chi Energy or Chi Operating] had actual knowledge of a danger or condition such that they incurred a duty to warn Pallanes of the existence of a hazard at the site. Recognizing that they had no control over the site and virtually no contact with the independent contractors directly, we hold [Chi Energy or Chi Operating] had no actual knowledge of any allegedly dangerous condition at that site.” OPINION:Richard Barajas, C.J.; Barajas, C.J., Larsen, and McClure, JJ.

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