Dallas Court of Appeals holds simply because building was having roof repairs does not equate to actual knowledge of dangerous condition due to water at specific location of convention center

City of Dallas v. Leslie Papierski 05-17-00157-CV (Tex. App— Dallas, October 2,2017)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) case and interlocutory appeal from the denial of the City’s plea to the jurisdiction. The Dallas Court of Appeals reversed and rendered in favor of the City.

The Dallas Convention Center hosted a cheerleading competition where Papierski attended with her daughter. While walking down a ramp in the arena, Papierski slipped and fell on a small puddle of water.  At approximately the same time and location, another person slipped and fell while walking up the ramp. The incidents were reported to the Convention Center. The reports stated, “building was undergoing water penetration repairs; however, no penetration had ever occurred previously in this area before.” A subsequent search of incident reports revealed no reports of past roof leaks or injuries in the area.  Papierski sued under a premise defect theory and the City filed a plea to the jurisdiction. The trial court denied the plea and the City appealed.

The 5th District Court of Appeals first held objections to hearsay, best evidence, self-serving statements, and unsubstantiated opinions are considered defects in form which require a formal ruling from the judge. Since the Plaintiff did not obtain a ruling, those objections to the City’s evidence are waived. Additionally, the affidavits challenged state the affiants are “personally acquainted” with the facts through center operations and procedures, which meets the personal knowledge requirement. Next, under invitee status which requires actual knowledge for liability, such knowledge on the part of a governmental entity requires knowledge that the dangerous condition existed at the time of the accident. Awareness of a potential problem is not actual knowledge.  The City established it did an exhaustive search for records of prior incidents of leakage in that location and were unable to locate any. Simply because the facility was having roof repairs due to leaks in other halls or areas does not mean the City had knowledge a leak created a dangerous condition at this specific location. No repair was occurring over the accident ramp. Additionally, even though some cases hold a condition which exists for a long enough period of time can attribute liability, no evidence exists in the record indicating how long the water was on the ramp. As a result, no fact question exists as to knowledge and the plea should have been granted.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justices Bridges, Fillmore, and Stoddart. Justice Bridges delivered the opinion of the court. Attorneys listed for the City are Sonia Ahmed, Barbara E. Rosenberg, Molly Parks Ward, and Jennifer Carter Huggard. Attorneys listed for Ms. Papierski are Aaron Herbert and Marissa Maggio.

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