Texas Supreme Court Opinions (3/20/15) - Part 2

Posted by Rich PhillipsThe Supreme Court of Texas issued 8 opinions this morning. Access the entire order list here. I will be covering four of them and Scott has covered the other four here.No. 13-0338, University of Texas at Arlington v. Williams – This appeal addresses whether the recreational-use statute (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 75.001-007) covers a spectator at a sporting event. The recreational use statute protects owners and occupiers by requiring plaintiffs to prove that injuries associated with the “recreational use” of the property resulted from gross negligence. Simple negligence is insufficient to establish liability. The plaintiffs sued after Ms. Williams fell through a gate at Maverick Stadium (which is owned by the University of Texas at Arlington) after a high school soccer game. She fell five feet to the turf and was injured. The University argued that attending a sporting event fell within the statute’s definition of “recreational use.” In a highly fractured decision, the Supreme Court held that the activity did not fall within the recreational use statute. The plurality opinion by Justice Devine (joined by Chief Justice Hecht, and Justices Green and Lehrmann) concluded that attending a sporting event was too dissimilar from the other activities on the list to fall within the statute’s “catch-all” provision. A concurring opinion by Justice Guzman (joined by Justice Willett) would have held that Ms. Williams was not attending a soccer game when she was injured because the game was over and she was trying to obtain and sign a school release form. Justice Guzman reasoned that obtaining and signing a school release form was not a recreational use. Justice Boyd wrote a separate concurrence reasoning that the recreational use statute is an impossible Gordian Knot and would have therefore held that the activity was not within the statute on the ground that the activity was not clearly within the purview of the statute, without trying to define the parameters of the “type” of activities that can be recreational use. Finally, Justice Johnson (joined by Justice Brown) concurred in part and dissented in part. Justice Johnson would have held that the plaintiffs had a claim for gross negligence. He would have held that “recreational use” was broad enough to encompass watching a sporting event.No. 13-0515, Klumb v. Houston Municipal Employees Pension System – This case arises from a dispute between the City of Houston and the Houston Municipal Employees Pension System. The City (and others) argued that the Pension System exceeded its authority by classifying employees of certain quasi-governmental entities as City employees with the right to participate in the pension system. In a unanimous opinion by Justice Guzman, the Court held that there is no jurisdiction over the City’s (and the other petitioners’) complaint for two reasons. First, the petitioners had not adequately pleaded an ultra vires claim to overcome the Pension Board’s governmental immunity. Second, the petitioners’ constitutional claims are facially invalid and therefore cannot overcome the Pension Board’s immunity, either.No. 14-0015, Kallinen v. City of Houston – In a per curiam opinion, the Court held that a person seeking information from a governmental body under the Public Information Act can sue to compel disclosure of the information even though the Attorney General is still reviewing the governmental body’s request for a ruling on whether it can claim an exception to disclosure. The Court reasoned that the statute at issue did not give the Attorney General exclusive jurisdiction over the issue of the applicability of exceptions and gives the requesting party the option to wait for the Attorney General’s decision or file suit.No. 14-0500, Stribling v. Millican DPC Partners, LP  – In a per curiam opinion, the Court holds that where a metes-and-bounds description in a deed conflicts with a more general description in the deed, the metes-and-bounds description should control. The Court reasoned that the more specific metes-and-bounds description was a better indicator of the parties’ intent.