Appeal from the 268th District Court Fort Bend County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 13-DCV-210842
consists of Justices Jennings, Keyes, and Brown.
Charles Galbraith, challenges the trial court's rendition
of summary judgment in favor of appellees, The Williams
Companies, Inc., Williams Gas Pipeline Company, LLC, and
Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC (collectively,
"Williams"), in his suit against them for
negligence, "[r]es [i]psa [l]oquitor, "
"[v]icarious [l]iability, " and gross negligence.
In four issues, Galbraith contends that the trial court erred
in granting Williams summary judgment.
dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.
third amended petition, Galbraith alleged that he sustained
personal injuries as a result of a dangerous condition on
Williams's property, located along the Brazos River in
Fort Bend County, Texas and upon which Williams maintains a
pipeline right of way. On or about September 10, 2012,
Galbraith, an invitee on Williams's property, set out,
using a tractor, to "shred overgrown grass" on the
pipeline right of way. As he shredded the grass, the dirt
river bank "gave way, " causing his tractor to flip
over and Galbraith to sustain serious injuries. He brought
claims against Williams for negligence, "[r]es [i]psa
[l]oquitor, " "[v]icarious [l]iability, " and
moved for summary judgment, arguing that it was entitled to
judgment as a matter of law on Galbraith's claims, which
all sound in negligence, because they are barred by Chapter
95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies
Code. Williams further argued that there is no
evidence that it had "maintained a contractual right of
control over [Galbraith's] work, " "controlled
the operative details of his work to such a degree that he
was not free to perform the work in his own way, " or
had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition which injured
Galbraith. In other words, Williams asserted that
there is "no evidence of an exception to the protections
afforded to [it] by Chapter 95." Williams asked the
trial court to grant its summary-judgment motion and dismiss
all of Galbraith's claims against it with prejudice.
response to the summary-judgment motion, Galbraith argued
that Williams did not meet its burden of establishing the
applicability of Chapter 95 because it had not shown that it
was the owner of the property or that his injuries arose from
a condition or use of an improvement to real property, which
he constructed, repaired, renovated, or
modified. Galbraith also asserted that, even
assuming the applicability of Chapter 95, Williams had
retained control over the manner in which his work was
performed and it had actual knowledge of, and failed to warn
him about the soil erosion, i.e., the dangerous condition
that caused his injuries.
hearing, on August 14, 2015, the trial court granted Williams
summary judgment, specifically stating, "Defendants
Williams Companies, Inc., Williams Gas Pipeline Company, and
Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC's Traditional
and No Evidence Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED."
The trial court titled its order: Order Granting
Defendants' Traditional and No Evidence Motion for
Summary Judgment. And although it had granted Williams's
summary-judgment motion in its entirety, the trial court did
not state that it dismissed with prejudice "all of the
claims brought by Charles Galbraith against Williams
Companies, Inc., Williams Gas Pipeline Company, and
Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Company, LLC."
September 2, 2015, Williams filed a Motion for Entry of
Judgment, noting that on August 14, 2015 the trial court had
granted its summary-judgment motion based on Chapter 95,
which barred all of Galbraith's claims against it, and
the court's summary-judgment order, thus, disposed of all
claims against all parties in the case. The trial court took
no action on Williams's motion. On November 5, 2015,
Williams withdrew its Motion for Entry of Judgment,
reiterating that the trial court's August 14, 2015 order
had disposed of all claims against all parties, asserting
that the trial court's plenary power had expired, and
explaining that it had filed its Motion for Entry of Judgment
in order to "facilitate [the] removal of the case from
the trial [court's] docket."
November 12, 2015, Galbraith filed a Motion for Docket
Control Conference, asserting that the trial court's
August 14, 2015 order granting Williams summary judgment did
not dismiss all claims or all parties and was not intended to
be a final judgment.
on December 18, 2015, 126 days after it had signed its August
14, 2015 order, the trial court signed another order, titled
Final Judgment, stating that it had, on August 14, 2015,
granted Williams's matter-of-law and no-evidence
summary-judgment motion. The trial court further stated,
"all of [Galbraith's] claims are DISMISSED with
prejudice." On December 18, 2015, Galbraith filed his
notice of appeal.