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City of McAllen v. Quintanilla

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

July 11, 2019

CITY OF MCALLEN, Appellant,
v.
ANTONIO QUINTANILLA, Appellee.

          On appeal from the 206th District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas.

          Before Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Perkes

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LETICIA HINOJOSA, JUSTICE.

         Appellee Antonio Quintanilla sued the City of McAllen (the City) asserting a premises liability claim. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which the trial court denied. By four issues, which we treat as two, the City argues that the trial court erred in denying its plea because: (1) the jurisdictional record establishes that the City's governmental immunity is not waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA); and (2) the trial court should not have considered Quintanilla's untimely response to the City's plea to the jurisdiction. We reverse and render.

         I. Background

         A. Pleadings

         In his petition, Quintanilla alleges that he slipped and fell on a liquid substance at McAllen Central Station, a bus station owned by the City. Quintanilla claimed that the fall caused an abrasion to his head and injuries to his shoulder, arms, and wrist. The City filed a plea to the jurisdiction, [1] supported by evidence, arguing that Quintanilla could not establish a waiver of its governmental immunity under the TTCA. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.025. The City maintained that: (1) Quintanilla was not required to pay a fee to access the bus station, and therefore, the City only owed Quintanilla the duty owed to a licensee, see id. § 101.022 ("Duty Owed: Premise and Special Defects"); and (2) the City did not breach its duty to warn Quintanilla because it did not have actual knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition that caused Quintanilla's injuries. The City supported its plea with excerpts from Quintanilla's deposition testimony and video surveillance footage of the incident.

         Quintanilla filed a response, contending that: (1) the City owed him the duty owed to an invitee because he was accompanying his aunt, who had paid to use the premises by purchasing a bus ticket; and (2) there existed a fact issue concerning whether the City had constructive knowledge of the dangerous condition. Quintanilla's response did not rely on any additional evidence.

         B. Jurisdictional Record

         Quintanilla testified in his deposition that his aunt purchased a ticket to travel by bus from McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico. Quintanilla accompanied his aunt to the bus station, but he did not purchase a ticket. According to Quintanilla, the bus station is open to the public, and it is not necessary to purchase a ticket to access the station. While walking through the station, Quintanilla slipped on a liquid substance and "fruit leftovers," which caused him to fall to the floor and strike his head on a nearby chair. Quintanilla stated that he suffered injuries to his arm, wrist, and head.

         Quintanilla did not see the substance prior to his fall. He described the spill as being smaller than a piece of paper. After he fell, Quintanilla recalled that employees cleaned the area and placed warning signs. He did not believe that any bus station employees were aware of the spill before his fall.

         A surveillance video shows Quintanilla seated in the waiting area of the bus station. An unknown individual pushes a dry mop down an aisle separating rows of chairs and past where Quintanilla is seated. Seconds later, a woman carrying a large bag in each hand walks down the aisle past Quintanilla. Almost immediately after she passes, Quintanilla stands and walks down the aisle where the woman had just travelled. After taking approximately three steps, and while in the middle of the aisle, Quintanilla slips, loses his balance, and falls to the floor, hitting his head on a nearby chair. Several persons help Quintanilla to his feet, and he appears to then take a seat. Moments later, a bus station employee places two "wet floor" signs on each side of the spill before returning with a string mop to clean the area. The video depicts three individuals walking past the area prior to Quintanilla's fall-the employee pushing the dry mop, Quintanilla himself, and the woman carrying two large bags. The substance causing Quintanilla's fall is not visible on the video.

         C. Trial Court Ruling

         After setting the matter for submission, the trial court denied the City's plea to the jurisdiction. This interlocutory ...


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