$2 Million-Dollar Recovery
June 30, 2017 Case Study
United Scaffolding Inc. v. James Levine
On June 30, 2017, the Texas Supreme Court sided with Beck Redden client, United Scaffolding Inc. (USI) and reversed a $1.9 million jury verdict that a personal injury plaintiff had won at trial. The 6-3 decision held that that the plaintiff’s slip-and-fall claim is a claim for premises liability, not ordinary negligence.
In an opinion by Justice Paul Green, the Supreme Court explained that slip-and-fall cases are properly classified as premises liability cases. As a result, plaintiffs cannot shortcut their way to a recovery by treating them as ordinary negligence cases.
In this case, the plaintiff alleged that he hurt himself when he stepped into a hole on a scaffold. Although a Beaumont trial judge and the Corpus Christi court of appeals classified the case as one of ordinary negligence, the Supreme Court disagreed. The Supreme Court stated that Texas law has long treated slip-and-fall cases as premises cases.
“Considering Levine’s pleadings, the nature of the case, the evidence presented at trial, and the charge in its entirety, we conclude that the theory of recovery submitted to the jury did not reflect the claim that was raised by the pleadings and the evidence,” the court wrote. “Because this case was submitted to the jury under only a general-negligence theory of recovery, without the elements of premises liability as instructions or definitions, the verdict cannot support a recovery in a premises defect case.”
The appeal was handled by Beck Redden appellate attorneys David M. Gunn and Erin H. Huber. They argued at every level of the court system that the case was controlled by Clayton W. Williams, Jr., Inc. v. Olivo, 952 S.W.2d 523 (Tex. 1997), and the Supreme Court agreed.