Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez, No. 19-0643

CourtSupreme Court of Texas
Writing for the CourtJustice Boyd delivered the opinion of the Court.
Citation622 S.W.3d 771
Parties LOS COMPADRES PESCADORES, L.L.C., Petitioner, v. Juan G. VALDEZ and Alfredo Teran, Respondents
Docket NumberNo. 19-0643
Decision Date26 March 2021

622 S.W.3d 771

LOS COMPADRES PESCADORES, L.L.C., Petitioner,
v.
Juan G. VALDEZ and Alfredo Teran, Respondents

No. 19-0643

Supreme Court of Texas.

Argued October 29, 2020
Opinion delivered: March 26, 2021
Rehearing Denied June 11, 2021


Javier Villarreal, Miguel D. Treviño, Brownsville, Morgan A. McPheeters, Dallas, for Respondents Valdez, Juan G.

Javier Villarreal, Brownsville, Morgan A. McPheeters, Dallas, for Respondents Teran, Alfredo.

Raul Medina, McAllen, Javier Villalobos, Laura P. Haley, Brandy Wingate Voss, Ruben Medina, McAllen, Allegra D. Hill, for Petitioner.

Justice Boyd delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves a property owner's liability for injuries its contractor's employees sustained while working on the property. A jury found the property owner liable under both ordinary-negligence and premises-liability theories. The trial court entered judgment for the employees based on those findings, and the court of appeals affirmed. The property owner challenges the judgment on the grounds that the employees failed to submit legally sufficient evidence and failed to obtain jury findings necessary to establish liability, particularly as required under chapter 95 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. In response, the employees contend that chapter

622 S.W.3d 777

95 does not apply, the property owner waived some of its arguments, and the evidence sufficiently supports the jury's verdict. We hold that chapter 95 applies, but we agree with the employees that they nevertheless established their claim, and we therefore affirm the court of appeals' judgment.

I.

Background

Juan Valdez and Alfredo Teran were injured while working on the construction of a four-unit condominium building on South Padre Island. Los Compadres Pescadores,1 L.L.C., owned the property and intended to lease the condos as residential apartments. Instead of hiring a general contractor, Los Compadres hired Luis Martin Torres to manage and supervise the project.

The sandy nature of the island's soil required that the building's foundation be constructed on concrete pilings buried deep into the ground below. Based on a bid Torres obtained, Los Compadres contracted Luis Paredes, Jr., d/b/a Paredes Power Drilling, to construct the pilings. Valdez and Teran were working for Paredes when they were injured.

The process Paredes used to install the concrete pilings required that he (1) level and compact fill dirt that had been brought onto the property, (2) drill a hole twenty-five feet deep for each of the more than twenty required pilings, (3) fill each hole with concrete, and (4) insert long metal reinforcement rods, commonly known as rebar, into each hole before the concrete dried. Before Paredes began his work, Los Compadres hired another subcontractor to build a retaining wall along the back of the property line so that the fill dirt could be added. After leveling and compacting the fill dirt for the Los Compadres project, Paredes used a crane with a fifty-foot-high boom and a special drill bit that simultaneously pulled the dirt out and poured the concrete in as he was drilling, combining the second and third steps into one. After drilling and filling one hole, he and his crew would insert the rebar into the wet concrete before moving on to the next.

AEP Texas Central Company owned a high-voltage power line that hung about twenty-two to twenty-four feet above and along Los Compadres's back property line. Although one of the poles supporting the power line leaned eight or nine degrees toward the Los Compadres property, the line remained within AEP's eight-foot utility easement and met the applicable code requirements governing its height and location. However, because of the retaining wall along the back property line and the added fill dirt, the ground level was closer to the power line when Paredes started drilling than it had been before construction began.

Paredes knew about the power line, and he told Torres when he bid on the project that Torres needed to "do something about" it because it was "too close" to the worksite. Torres replied that he would talk to AEP and "take care of it." When the time came for Paredes to begin his work, however, the line remained in place. When Paredes asked Torres about it, Torres told him to "go ahead" with his work but to start drilling at the front of the property because "it wasn't clear to see what was going to be done with that [power] line." Paredes began the job as Torres instructed, but warned his crew to stay at least twenty feet away from the line.

On most similar jobs, Paredes would start drilling holes and pouring pilings at

622 S.W.3d 778

the back of the property and move toward the front, to limit the number of times he would have to move the large crane across the compacted fill dirt. At Torres's instruction, however, he began drilling at the front of the Los Compadres property and completed about five pilings the first day. On the second day, Torres told him the power line was still energized and he needed to work around it, so he completed additional pilings toward the front and sides of the property. On the third day, Torres told Paredes that the power line would not be de-energized but Paredes needed to continue drilling because the work had to be done.

After drilling about three holes that day, Paredes drilled another hole about ten to twelve feet from the back property line. Paredes drilled and filled that hole at a slight angle to keep the crane's boom as far away from the power line as possible, and then got down from the crane to help his crew insert the rebar. Each piece of rebar was over twenty feet long and weighed over one hundred pounds, requiring the men to work together to lift and lower it into the concrete. No one knows exactly what happened to cause the accident, but as Valdez, Teran, Paredes, and another crew member were lifting the rebar and placing one end into the concrete, the other end contacted the power line.

The electricity shot down the rebar, threw the men off their feet, briefly knocked them unconscious, and caused burns to their hands and feet. The power line snapped, and the rebar was left leaning on a telecommunications line strung below the power line. Although the power line carried over seven thousand volts, the lower end of the rebar was already in contact with the concrete before the higher end contacted the power line, grounding the circuit and likely saving the men's lives. After taking a day off, Paredes returned and finished the job. Los Compadres later paid him to bury conduit along the back property line so that AEP could move the power line underground.

Valdez and Teran sued AEP and Paredes for negligence.2 Paredes filed a cross-claim against AEP for negligence as well. AEP then joined Los Compadres as a third-party defendant, arguing that chapter 752 of the Health and Safety Code required Los Compadres to indemnify AEP because Los Compadres had violated the Code's provisions.3 Valdez and Teran then added ordinary-negligence and premises-liability claims against Los Compadres.4

AEP settled with Valdez and Teran before trial but continued to pursue its statutory-indemnity claim against Los Compadres. The jury found that Los Compadres, Paredes, and AEP each negligently caused the occurrence but Valdez and Teran did not. The jury also found Los Compadres liable under a premises-liability theory, specifically finding that Los Compadres exercised or retained some control over

622 S.W.3d 779

the manner in which the injury-causing work was performed. The jury assigned 50% of the responsibility for the occurrence to Los Compadres, 25% to Paredes, and 25% to AEP. The jury found against AEP on its statutory-indemnity claim, finding Los Compadres did not violate the Health and Safety Code because it was not "responsible for temporary work, activity or function which made it possible to bring tools, equipment, machines or materials within six feet of the power lines." Finally, for pain and mental anguish, the jury awarded Valdez $150,000 and Teran $83,200.

After adding prejudgment interest and applying settlement credits, the trial court entered judgment for Valdez and Teran on the jury's verdict. Los Compadres appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 608 S.W.3d 829, 833 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi–Edinburg 2019). Los Compadres petitioned this Court for review. We requested briefs from the parties, and Los Compadres filed a brief arguing that the jury's findings and the evidence are insufficient to establish that (A) Torres acted as Los Compadres's employee or agent, making Los Compadres vicariously liable for Torres's conduct, (B) Los Compadres had actual knowledge of the dangerous condition that resulted in the harm, (C) Los Compadres had control over the work that led to the injuries, (D) Los Compadres failed to warn Valdez and Teran of a dangerous condition that was not "open and obvious," or (E) Los Compadres's conduct proximately caused their injuries. We granted the petition and now affirm.

II.

Discussion

A. Agency

...

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19 practice notes
  • Prado v. Lonestar Resources, Inc., 04-19-00543-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 28, 2021
    ...Jr. knew of the dangerous condition or whether the condition was open and obvious. See Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 788-89 (Tex. 2021) (stating that whether danger is open and obvious depends on totality of circumstances). Conversely, Ezra Alderman Ranches’ c......
  • Energen Resources Corporation v. Wallace, 20-0451
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 11, 2022
    ...contractor or subcontractor constructs, repairs, renovates, or modifies the improvement." Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 782 (Tex. 2021) (quoting TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 95.002(2) ). Here, the parties do not dispute that the first three requirements are m......
  • Vance v. Hurst Joint Venture LP, 08-20-00167-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 11, 2022
    ...condition on the premises if the dangerous condition is undisputedly open and obvious); Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez, 622 S.W.3d 771, 788 (Tex. 2021) (same); Austin v. Kroger Texas, L.P., 465 S.W.3d 193, 201 (Tex. 2015) (a premises owner has no duty to protect an invitee from ......
  • George v. SI Grp., Inc., 20-40427
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 3, 2022
    ...yet failed adequately to warn of the condition or to make the condition reasonably safe. Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 782 (Tex. 2021), reh'g denied (June 11, 2021). Under Chapter 95, by contrast, the plaintiff must show that the property owner had actual know......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • Prado v. Lonestar Resources, Inc., 04-19-00543-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 28, 2021
    ...Jr. knew of the dangerous condition or whether the condition was open and obvious. See Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 788-89 (Tex. 2021) (stating that whether danger is open and obvious depends on totality of circumstances). Conversely, Ezra Alderman Ranches’ c......
  • Energen Resources Corporation v. Wallace, 20-0451
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • March 11, 2022
    ...contractor or subcontractor constructs, repairs, renovates, or modifies the improvement." Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 782 (Tex. 2021) (quoting TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 95.002(2) ). Here, the parties do not dispute that the first three requirements are m......
  • Vance v. Hurst Joint Venture LP, 08-20-00167-CV
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • August 11, 2022
    ...condition on the premises if the dangerous condition is undisputedly open and obvious); Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez, 622 S.W.3d 771, 788 (Tex. 2021) (same); Austin v. Kroger Texas, L.P., 465 S.W.3d 193, 201 (Tex. 2015) (a premises owner has no duty to protect an invitee from ......
  • George v. SI Grp., Inc., 20-40427
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • June 3, 2022
    ...yet failed adequately to warn of the condition or to make the condition reasonably safe. Los Compadres Pescadores, L.L.C. v. Valdez , 622 S.W.3d 771, 782 (Tex. 2021), reh'g denied (June 11, 2021). Under Chapter 95, by contrast, the plaintiff must show that the property owner had actual know......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
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