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Cuevas v. Endeavor Energy Resources, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Eleventh District

July 27, 2017

EVELYN CUEVAS ET AL., Appellants
v.
ENDEAVOR ENERGY RESOURCES, L.P., Appellee

         On Appeal from the 385th District Court Midland County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CV51195

          Panel consists of: Wright, C.J., Willson, J., and Bailey, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JOHN M. BAILEY JUSTICE.

         This summary judgment appeal concerns an application of Chapter 95 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code to claims brought by the survivors of the decedent, Angel Cuevas, Jr. Cuevas was fatally injured while working on a drilling rig that was drilling a well on a lease owned and operated by Endeavor Energy Resources, L.P. Appellants[1] filed suit against Endeavor and Cuevas's employer, Big Dog Drilling, alleging claims of negligence and premises liability. The trial court granted Endeavor's motion for summary judgment based upon its determination that Appellants did not have evidence to establish a claim against Endeavor under Section 95.003. [2] See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 95.003 (West 2011). We affirm.

         Background Facts

         Endeavor is an owner/operator of oil and gas leases located in Midland County. Endeavor contracted with Big Dog Drilling to drill a well on Endeavor's mineral lease. Cuevas was an employee of Big Dog Drilling. On June 25, 2011, Cuevas and other rig hands were working on Big Dog Drilling Rig No. 17. The accident occurred while the Big Dog crew was "rigging up" the rig in preparation for drilling operations. Cuevas was working in the substructure area of the rig, known as the cellar, trying to repair a cellar jet line. The cellar jet line is a pipe that works as a vacuum to remove fluid from the cellar.

         Cuevas and the other rig hands were using a rope known as a catline, which was attached to a pulley system known as a cathead, to lift the cellar jet line in order to make the repairs. During this process, the catline became unexpectedly caught on the cathead, which caused the cellar jet line to rise abruptly and strike Cuevas in the head, ultimately resulting in his death. No Endeavor employees were present at the location when the accident occurred.

         In the Plaintiffs' Original Petition, they alleged that Endeavor owned and operated the job site and that Endeavor was an occupier of the premises.[3] Plaintiffs alleged that the premises were unreasonably dangerous, unsafe, and a producing cause of their damages. Plaintiffs alleged a premises liability claim against Endeavor based on the contention that Cuevas suffered bodily injury resulting in his death as a result of a dangerous condition on the premises, which Endeavor permitted to exist and about which Endeavor failed to warn Cuevas.

         Endeavor filed a motion for summary judgment asserting traditional and no-evidence grounds regarding Appellants' original negligence and premises liability claims. Endeavor's traditional summary judgment grounds alleged that Chapter 95 applied to plaintiffs' claims against Endeavor, and Endeavor's no-evidence ground asserted that plaintiffs had no evidence satisfying the requirements of Section 95.003. Plaintiffs subsequently filed a supplemental petition alleging negligent hiring, retention, and supervision claims against Endeavor. Plaintiffs alleged that Endeavor was negligent in hiring Cuevas's employer, Big Dog Drilling, to drill a well on its lease and that Endeavor was negligent in failing to properly supervise Big Dog Drilling as it performed work on the lease. Endeavor did not amend or supplement its motion for summary judgment to address these new claims.

         After a hearing, the trial court granted Endeavor's motion for summary judgment on all claims asserted by Appellants. Collectively, Appellants present two issues on appeal.[4] They assert in their first issue that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the original premises liability claim. They assert in their second issue that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment on the negligent hiring, retention, and supervision claims that were pleaded after Endeavor filed its motion for summary judgment.

         The Original Premises Liability and Negligence Claims

         We review a summary judgment de novo. Travelers Ins. Co. v. Joachim, 315 S.W.3d 860, 862 (Tex. 2010). As noted previously, Endeavor asserted, as a traditional summary judgment ground, that Appellants' original claims against Endeavor are governed by Chapter 95. We are aided in our analysis by two recent opinions by the Texas Supreme Court addressing the application of Chapter 95. See Ineos USA, LLC v. Elmgren, 505 S.W.3d 555 (Tex. 2016); Abutahoun v. Dow Chem. Co., 463 S.W.3d 42 (Tex. 2015).

         We note at the outset that the parties agree that Chapter 95 applies to Appellants' original premises liability and negligence claims as alleged in Plaintiffs' Original Petition. Accordingly, Endeavor's traditional summary judgment ground is not being challenged on appeal as it applies to Appellants' original claims. Instead, Appellants' first issue focuses on Endeavor's no-evidence ground asserting that Appellants had no evidence to establish a claim under Section 95.003.

         After adequate time for discovery, a party may move for summary judgment on the ground that there is no evidence of one or more essential elements of a claim or defense on which an adverse party would have the burden of proof at trial. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(i). A no-evidence summary judgment motion under Rule 166a(i) is essentially a motion for a pretrial directed verdict; it requires the nonmoving party to present evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact supporting each element contested in the motion. Id.; Timpte Indus., Inc. v. Gish, 286 S.W.3d 306, 310 (Tex. 2009); Mack Trucks, Inc. v. Tamez, 206 S.W.3d 572, 581-82 (Tex. 2006). When reviewing a no-evidence summary judgment, we "review the evidence presented by the motion and response in the light most favorable to the party against whom the summary judgment was rendered, crediting evidence favorable to that party if ...


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