Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kochar v. Wasserman

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

July 24, 2019

Gupreet KOCHAR, Appellant
v.
Mark WASSERMAN d/b/a Chick-fil-A Medical Center FSU, Appellee

          From the County Court at Law No. 10, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2017CV02440 Honorable David J. Rodriguez, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice

         Gupreet Kochar slipped and fell at a Chick-fil-A restaurant and sued the restaurant's prior franchisee, Mark Wasserman. Wasserman moved for summary judgment, arguing he, in his individual capacity, did not own or control the premises. The trial court granted the motion. On appeal, Kochar relies on a property tax record and a webpage from Chick-fil-A's website listing Wasserman as the "restaurant operator." Concluding this evidence does not raise a fact issue as to a prior franchisee's ownership or control of the premises, we affirm.

         Background

         Wasserman executed a Franchise Agreement with Chick-fil-A, Inc. to operate a restaurant in San Antonio. The Franchise Agreement named Wasserman, individually, as the "franchisee" and the restaurant "operator," and the agreement became effective on January 1, 2015. The Franchise Agreement provided a franchisee may assign his rights under the agreement to a corporation formed for the sole purpose of operating the franchised restaurant.

         Before the Franchise Agreement became effective, Wasserman formed a corporation "CMIL & FAMILY, INC." for the sole purpose of operating the franchised restaurant. Wasserman was named as the sole director of CMIL. Under an "Assignment and Consent to Assignment Agreement," Wasserman, individually, assigned "all the right, title and interest of [Wasserman] in and to . . . the Franchise Agreement . . . and the Business," to CMIL. The Assignment and Consent to Assignment Agreement also became effective on January 1, 2015.

         Kochar sued Wasserman, individually, alleging he slipped and fell at the Chick-fil-A restaurant on August 27, 2016. Kochar alleged Wasserman was negligent by failing to protect him against dangerous conditions on the premises. Wasserman filed an answer, generally denying Kochar's allegations and, in a verified denial, alleged he was not a proper party to the proceeding because he was not the owner, operator, or franchisee of the restaurant.

         Wasserman filed a traditional and no-evidence motion for summary judgment. He argued he owed no legal duty to Kochar because he assigned all of his rights and interests to the restaurant to CMIL. In his summary judgment response, Kochar relied on: (1) a property tax record that, according to Kochar, shows Wasserman owned "fixtures, equipment, and personal property" on the premises; and (2) a webpage on Chick-fil-A's website listing Wasserman's name under the heading "restaurant operator." Granting Wasserman's motion, the trial court rendered summary judgment against Kochar. Kochar timely appealed.

         Standard of Review

         We review the trial court's grant of a traditional or no-evidence summary judgment de novo. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005). To prevail on a traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must show that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c); Provident Life & Accident Ins. Co. v. Knott, 128 S.W.3d 211, 215-16 (Tex. 2003). We review a no-evidence summary judgment using the well-established legal sufficiency standard. King Ranch, Inc. v. Chapman, 118 S.W.3d 742, 750-51 (Tex. 2003); see also Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(i). In reviewing a summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the non-movant, indulging every reasonable inference and resolving any doubts in the non-movant's favor. Knott, 128 S.W.3d at 215.

         Discussion

         Kochar argues he produced evidence raising a fact issue that Wasserman, individually, owed a duty to protect him against dangerous conditions on the premises where he slipped and fell. "[T]he duty to make the premises safe or warn of dangerous conditions generally runs with the ownership or control of the property, and a defendant's liability under a premises liability theory rests on the defendant's assumption of control of the premises and responsibility for dangerous conditions on it." United Scaffolding, Inc. v. Levine, 537 S.W.3d 463, 474 (Tex. 2017) (internal quotation marks omitted). In other words, "[t]o establish premises liability, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had control over and responsibility for the premises." Cohen v. Landry's Inc., 442 S.W.3d 818, 824 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, pet. denied).

         The parties dispute whether Wasserman, individually, is the proper defendant. "Under Texas law, a corporation is presumed to be a separate entity from its officers and shareholders." Richard Nugent & CAO, Inc. v. Estate of Ellickson, 543 S.W.3d 243, 266 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2018, no pet.). A plaintiff bears the burden to plead and prove a theory to pierce the corporate veil. U.S. KingKing, LLC v. Precision Energy Servs., Inc., 555 S.W.3d 200, 213 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2018, no pet.). Kochar did not plead or attempt to prove any corporate-veil-piercing theory to impose ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.