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Garrett v. Graham

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

September 7, 2017

TRENTON GARRETT, Appellant
v.
TRACY GRAHAM, ET AL, Appellee

         On Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 1 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1072042

          Panel consists of Justices Christopher, Busby, and Jewell.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Brett Busby, Justice.

         Appellant Trenton Garrett sued his employer, ADESA Texas Inc., d/b/a Adesa Houston, and two individual employees of Adesa, Tracy Graham and Clara Morales, alleging a negligence cause of action for failure to provide a safe work place. His petition alleged a hostile altercation between himself and another unnamed person while he was at work.

         Garrett now appeals a summary judgment in favor of Adesa and an order dismissing his case against Graham and Morales pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 91a. We conclude (1) the trial court did not err in granting Adesa's no-evidence motion for summary judgment because Garrett did not present summary judgment evidence raising a genuine issue of material fact on the foreseeability of the criminal act; and (2) the trial court did not err in dismissing the claim against Graham and Morales as individuals because Garrett did not allege facts in his petition showing that Graham and Morales owed Garrett an independent duty of reasonable care. Therefore, we affirm.

         Background

         Garrett filed this negligence suit against his employer Adesa and his supervisors Tracy Graham and Clara Morales individually, alleging that the defendants failed to provide a safe work place. He alleged there was an extremely hostile altercation between himself and another unnamed person while he was at work. After the altercation, he reported the incident to Graham, who released Garrett from work early. Garrett alleged that Graham and Morales never investigated the incident.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing Garrett's claim was barred by the Texas Workers' Compensation Act (TWCA) and that he had not stated facts that could support his claim for negligence. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 91a. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss in part, dismissing the claim against Graham and Morales but not Adesa.

         Adesa filed a motion re-urging its motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, a no-evidence motion for summary judgment. Adesa argued Garrett's claim was barred by the TWCA, and that there was no evidence Adesa owed a duty to protect him from an unforeseeable criminal act or that Adesa breached a duty. Garrett responded with his own affidavits, pay stubs, subpoenas for written depositions, and a photo of his timesheet after the incident with the words "No Return." Garrett's affidavits explained he did not know who assaulted him, the altercation happened at work, the altercation was with a violent employee, he never saw his supervisor talk to the person who assaulted him after the incident, and he was restricted from his job. In one motion filed leading up to the summary judgment hearing, Garret argued that section 406.032(1)(C) of the TWCA, the so-called "personal animosity" exception, applied to his case.

         The trial court denied Adesa's motion to dismiss, but granted its no-evidence motion for summary judgment on grounds there was no evidence of negligence and his claim was barred by the TWCA. Garrett appealed.

         Analysis

         Because Garrett is pro se, we will liberally construe the issues raised in his brief. See Guishard v. Money Mgmt. Int'l, Inc., No. 14-14-000362-CV, 2015 WL 4984853, at *1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Aug. 20, 2015, no pet.) (mem. op.). So construed, the issues before us are whether the trial court erred in (1) granting Adesa's no-evidence motion for summary judgment and (2) dismissing Garrett's claim against Graham and Morales.[1]

         I. The trial court did not err in granting Adesa's no-evidence motion for summary judgment because evidence of negligence was lacking.

         In Adesa's no-evidence motion for summary judgment, it argued that the TWCA bars Garrett's claim and attached an exhibit of Adesa's coverage verification under the act. Adesa also asserted there is no evidence it owed a duty to protect ...


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