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Martin v. Eco Services Operations, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

February 22, 2018

LEWIS ALVIN MARTIN III, Appellant
v.
ECO SERVICES OPERATIONS, LLC, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 269th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 2016-23873

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Radack and Justices Higley and Bland.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Jane Bland Justice

         This is an appeal from a summary judgment in a premises-liability case. An employee of an independent contractor was injured as he was unloading sulfuric acid from his truck to a connection point at a chemical plant. The employee was using a heavy hose to unload the chemical. He pulled the hose when it caught on a metal plate or grate. The hose released and pushed against the employee's arm, causing a shoulder injury. The employee sued the plant owner, who moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted summary judgment, and the employee appeals. We conclude that no evidence exists that the plant owner had the right to control the employee's work activity in using the hose. Because the plant owner owed no duty to the independent contractor's employee, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         Lewis Martin worked for Dana Transport, moving sulfuric acid by truck from Port Arthur, Texas, to an ECO Services Operations, LLC facility in Houston. Dana Transport had trained Martin about the proper way to unload the sulfuric acid at ECO's facility. When Martin arrived at ECO's facility, he would drive his truck to a designated place, where he would unload sulfuric acid into the plant's receiving points. As part of his duties, Martin connected ECO's hoses between his truck and the receiving points. Because of their heavy weight and size, Martin dragged the hoses across the ground at the unloading area before connecting them from the truck to the receiving points.

         Only Dana Transport drivers used the unloading area; the drivers had access to it 24 hours per day, seven days per week. Before he was injured, Martin had unloaded his truck at the unloading area a few dozen times.

         ECO employees did not direct Martin in using the hoses to connect his truck to the receiving points. Martin never asked ECO personnel for help or direction in performing the hose-connection steps of the unloading process.

         At the unloading area, ECO placed steel plates on the ground to prevent ruts from developing in the asphalt, where drivers like Martin parked their transport trucks. Also on the ground was a metal grate with an opening in it. During his transport runs, Martin noticed either the plates or the grate tended to snag the hoses he used to unload the truck.

         On the day he was injured, Martin maneuvered one of the hoses along the ground at the unloading area. The hose snagged either on a steel plate or the opening in the metal grate. Martin pulled at the hose to try to unsnag it. The hose suddenly released and pushed his arm backward, severely injuring his shoulder.

         Martin sued ECO based on premises liability. ECO moved for summary judgment on both no-evidence and traditional grounds, contending that it did not control Martin's work activities at the site, among other grounds. The trial court granted summary judgment in ECO's favor.

         DISCUSSION

         Martin challenges the trial court's summary judgment, contending that he raised material fact issues on each element of his premises-liability claim.

          A.Standa ...


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