HOUSTON – The Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas has affirmed a trial court’s ruling against a tenant in her suit against a Houston Housing Authority apartment complex.
In the ruling on Jan. 29, the Appeals Court said appellant Angela Carter didn’t prove her premises liability claim against Tarantino Properties Inc., which manages the Houston Housing Authority apartment complex.
According to the opinion written by Justice Richard Hightower, Carter didn’t prove that Tarantino should have known about the danger on the property. Carter’s lawsuit alleged that the "glass cover of an improperly installed bathroom light fixture fell and cut her wrist," according to the opinion.
The Appeals Court said Carter appealed the ruling after the trial court granted Tarantino’s traditional motion for summary judgment on the premises liability claim and denied Carter’s motion for new trial.
According to the opinion, the owner of a property is required to be aware of any dangerous condition that a reasonable inspection would have revealed and the plaintiff must prove that the owner “knew or should have known of the existence of the condition and that he should have appreciated its dangers.’”
“Carter’s premises liability claim is that the bathroom light fixture was 'jerry-rigged'— it was improperly attached to the wall with just one nail and when the light fixture became dislodged, its glass cover fell off, breaking and cutting Carter,” Hightower wrote.
Carter argues that Tarantino employee Rachel Chavez should have seen the problem when she inspected the apartment in 2014, the opinion said.
According to the opinion, Carter’s testimony establishes that the alleged dangerous condition - the single nail affixing the light fixture’s base to the wall above the medicine cabinet - was concealed and therefore a visual inspection of the light fixture would not have detected how the base of the light fixture was affixed to the wall.
“Further, Carter’s testimony establishes that the only way to determine that the light fixture had been improperly installed would have been to detach it from the wall and Carter’s expert is silent on how a visual or physical inspection would have revealed the alleged improper installation,” the opinion stated.
The Appeals Court concluded that “Carter’s summary-judgment evidence does not raise a fact issue on Tarantino’s constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition.”
According to the opinion, constructive knowledge is “what a person after a reasonable inspection ought to know or have reason to know.”
“The trial court properly granted Tarantino’s traditional motion for summary judgment on Carter’s premises liability claim,” the opinion stated.
According to the Appeals Court, Carter moved in to the Irvington Village Apartments in January 2014 and was injured in June that year.
“On June 25, 2014, while Carter was in the process of closing her bathroom medicine cabinet, the glass cover (or glass shade) for the light fixture fell and cut her right wrist,” the opinion stated. “Broken glass also cut her leg.”
Carter’s daughter called 911 and she was taken by ambulance to a hospital where her "wrist wound was sutured and her leg wound was cleaned," the opinion states.