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Taylor v. San Jacinto River Authority

Court of Appeals of Texas, Ninth District, Beaumont

August 8, 2019

ROBERT JAKE TAYLOR, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS THE EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROY LYNN TAYLOR, Appellant
v.
SAN JACINTO RIVER AUTHORITY, Appellee

          Submitted on May 30, 2019

          On Appeal from the 284th District Court Montgomery County, Texas Trial Cause No. 18-06-07233-CV

          Before McKeithen, C.J., Kreger and Johnson, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CHARLES KREGER, JUSTICE.

         Robert Jake Taylor, individually and as the executor of the estate of Roy Taylor, sued San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) and other defendants seeking damages for injuries and the wrongful death of Roy Taylor after a boating accident on Lake Conroe. The trial court dismissed the claims against SJRA on its plea to the jurisdiction. Taylor presents two issues on appeal. First, Taylor asserts that he pleaded a claim that overcomes immunity considering the recreational use statute's requirement that he allege and prove gross negligence.[1] Second, conditioned upon an affirmative conclusion on issue one, Taylor asserts that SJRA failed to produce evidence that conclusively negates an element of Taylor's premises liability claim. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

         Background

         On May 26, 2017, Decedent Roy Taylor was a passenger in a boat on Lake Conroe.[2] At approximately 1 a.m., the boat was involved in a collision, which ejected Roy and caused fatal injuries. Robert Jake Taylor, individually and as the executor of Roy's estate, sued SJRA and other defendants.

         In his original petition, Taylor alleged the boat collided with a landmass bulkhead along the shoreline of the lake near the Diamondhead neighborhood. In addition to SJRA, Taylor sued the individuals who owned property adjacent to the bulkhead and the boat's driver. The claims against SJRA were limited to negligence, and specifically, Taylor alleged that as the owner/manager of the Diamondhead bulkhead on Lake Conroe, SJRA had the common-law and statutory duties to use ordinary care and breached those duties. He alleged SJRA was negligent in the following particulars:

a. Failing to warn persons of the presence and condition of the hazardous bulkhead;
b. Failing to warn persons of the presence and condition of the hazardous building materials, boulders or concrete near the bulkhead;
c. Failing to illuminate or provide adequate sound or other devices, to warn persons of the presence and condition of the hazardous bulkhead;
d. Failing to illuminate or provide adequate sound or other devices, to warn persons of the presence and condition of the hazardous building materials, boulders or concrete near the bulkhead;
e. Failing to mark, buoy, flag or provide any other warnings that the bulkhead was present, or that it extended so far out into the body of the lake[;]
f. Failing to warn boaters in the area that waters surrounding [and] adjacent to that bulkhead were so shallow that concrete, building materials or boulders were exposed;
g. Failing to maintain a safe environment;
h. Failing to correct, or require others to correct, such hazardous conditions;
i. Failing to exercise reasonable and prudent care under the ...

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