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Sanchez v. Stripes LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

April 26, 2017

Gregory SANCHEZ, Appellant
v.
STRIPES LLC and Stripes Convenience Store, an Assumed or Common Name, Appellees

         From the 83rd Judicial District Court, Val Verde County, Texas Trial Court No. 31407 Honorable Robert Cadena, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice, Irene Rios, Justice.

          OPINION

          Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice.

         As Appellant Gregory Sanchez walked towards the men's restroom in one of Appellees' convenience stores, he walked around a wet floor warning sign located in the hallway outside the bathroom area. Sanchez insists the hallway floor was dry when he walked into the restroom, but when he walked out, the hallway floor was wet; he slipped, fell, and was injured. He sued Appellees for personal injury based on premises liability, but the trial court granted summary judgment for Appellees. Because we conclude the warning was adequate as a matter of law, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Background

         Sanchez was injured in Del Rio, Texas, in a convenience store owned or operated by Stripes LLC and Stripes Convenience Store, an assumed or common name (collectively Stripes). It is undisputed that Sanchez was an invitee to the store.

         The store's restrooms are located at the rear of the store. The restrooms are accessible via an open entry that leads to a small hallway. The store's surveillance video recording of the incident shows a yellow, "WET FLOOR" warning sign positioned in the entry to the small hallway outside the restrooms. As Sanchez turned a corner and walked into the short, relatively narrow hallway, he walked past the warning sign. Once in the hallway, he walked past a female Stripes employee wet-mopping the floor, and then entered the men's restroom.

         While Sanchez was inside the restroom, the Stripes employee proceeded to wet-mop the hallway entrance where the sign was located. As she mopped, she moved the sign a few feet, mopped the area where the warning sign had been, and then put the sign back in the same place as it was when Sanchez entered the restroom.

         Less than two minutes after he entered it, Sanchez exited the restroom. As he did, he slipped on the wet hallway floor within a few feet of where the sign was located. Sanchez was injured, and he sued Stripes for his personal injury based on premises liability.

         Sanchez argues Stripes breached its duty of ordinary care to him because it did not adequately warn him of the dangerous condition or make the condition reasonably safe.

         In its traditional motion for summary judgment, Stripes argued that the summary judgment evidence conclusively negates an essential element of Sanchez's claim-that Stripes breached its duty to him-and it was entitled to judgment because, as a matter of law, Stripes's warning was adequate and the condition was open and obvious. In its no-evidence motion, Stripes argued there was no evidence that the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm, that Stripes did not exercise reasonable care to reduce or to eliminate the risk, or that Stripes's alleged failure to exercise ordinary care proximately caused Sanchez's injuries.

         The trial court granted Stripes's combined motion but did not state the ground on which it granted the motion. Sanchez appeals.

         Standards of Review

         A. No-Evidence Motion

         We review a no-evidence summary judgment using a legal sufficiency standard. King Ranch, Inc. v. Chapman, 118 S.W.3d 742, 750–51 (Tex. 2003); see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(i). "When reviewing [either a no-evidence or a traditional motion for] summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant, and we indulge every reasonable inference and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor." Joe v. Two Thirty Nine Joint Venture, 145 S.W.3d 150, 157 (Tex. 2004); accord Strandberg v. Spectrum Office Bldg., 293 S.W.3d 736, 738 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2009, no pet.). If the nonmovant's summary judgment evidence contains "more than a scintilla of probative evidence to raise a genuine issue of material fact," the trial court may not properly grant the no-evidence motion. Smith v. O'Donnell, 288 S.W.3d 417, 424 (Tex. 2009).

         B. Traditional Motion

         "We review a trial court's grant of summary judgment de novo." Frost Nat'l Bank v. Fernandez, 315 S.W.3d 494, 508 (Tex. 2010); accord Joe, 145 S.W.3d at 157. "A traditional summary judgment motion is properly granted where a defendant conclusively negates at least one essential element of a [plaintiff's] cause of action." Henkel v. Norman, 441 S.W.3d 249, 251 (Tex. 2014) (per curiam); accord Fernandez, 315 S.W.3d at 508; see Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c).

         Applicable Law

To prevail on a premises liability claim against a property owner, an injured invitee must establish four elements: (1) the property owner had actual or constructive knowledge of the condition causing the injury; (2) the condition posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (3) the property owner failed to take reasonable care to reduce or eliminate the risk; and (4) the property owner's failure to use ...

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