Flye v. City of Waco, No. 10-00-260-CV

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtBefore Chief Justice Davis; BILL VANCE
Citation50 S.W.3d 645
Docket NumberNo. 10-00-260-CV
Decision Date20 June 2001

Page 645

50 S.W.3d 645 (Tex.App.-Waco 2001)
CITY OF WACO, Appellee
No. 10-00-260-CV
Court of Appeals of Texas, Waco
June 20, 2001

From the 74th District Court McLennan County, Texas Trial Court # 98-2884-3

Page 646

C. Michael Flynn, Waco, for appellant.

Charles D. Olson, Alfred Mackenzie, Haley & Davis, Waco, for appelle.

Before Chief Justice Davis, Justice Vance, and Justice Gray



On March 23, 1997, six-year-old Allen Flye, III ("Allen") attended a picnic at Cameron Park in the City of Waco with his parents. Allen was pushing a friend on a swing when he slipped. The swing hit him on the head, causing a wound which required about 30 stitches and 18 staples to close. Allen's parents, Allen Flye, Jr. and Theresa Degrate ("the Flyes"), individually and on his behalf, brought suit against the City of Waco ("City") alleging, among other things, negligence and gross negligence because the swing in question did not have a protective bumper like other swings in the park. The City moved for summary judgment on grounds that: 1) Allen and the Flyes were engaged in recreational activity and the City had no liability for their negligence claim, 2) the City is entitled to governmental immunity, and 3) the City did not owe Allen or the Flyes any duty which gave rise to liability for the negligence alleged. The trial court granted the motion, and the Flyes appealed. Finding the summary judgment proper, we will affirm.


The standards for reviewing a summary judgment are well established. They are:

(1)The movant for summary judgment has the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

(2)In deciding whether there is a disputed material fact issue precluding summary judgment, evidence favorable to the non-movant will be taken as true.

(3)Every reasonable inference must be indulged in favor of the non-movant and any doubts resolved in his favor.

Nixon v. Mr. Property Management Co., 690 S.W.2d 546, 548-49 (Tex. 1985). We review a summary judgment de novo. Rucker v. Bank One, 36 S.W.3d 649, 653 (Tex. App. Waco 2000, pet. filed).

Gross negligence is defined as "that entire want of care which would raise the belief that the act or omission complained of was the result of a conscious indifference to the rights or welfare of the person or persons to be affected by it." Burk Royalty Co. v. Walls, 616 S.W.2d 911, 920 (Tex. 1981); Missouri Pacific Ry. v. Shuford, 72 Tex. 165, 170, 10 S.W. 408, 411 (1888).

Page 647

With these principles in mind, we turn to a review of the summary-judgment motion, response, and evidence.


The Flyes asserted claims for negligence and gross negligence in their original and amended petitions.1


The Flyes agree on appeal that they went to the park to engage in activities that fall within the scope of the Recreational Use Statute, chapter 75 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code ("the Statute"). Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §§ 75.001-.004 (Vernon Supp. 2001). Section 75.003(e) makes chapter 75 applicable to governmental units, including the City. Id. § 75.003(e). Section 75.003(f) provides: "This chapter does not waive sovereign immunity." Id. § 75.003(f). They agree that claims based on ordinary negligence are barred by the Statute. Thus, we do not address the claims of ordinary negligence.


Giving the Flyes the benefit of the broadest possible construction of their petition, we find they assert that the following omissions by the City constituted gross negligence:

failure to provide warning signs;

failure to provide adequate warning signs;

failure to correct prior incidents involving other children;

failure to maintain the condition of the park;

failure to maintain the equipment in the park; and

failure to repair the equipment in the park.

The City, as the summary-judgment movant, undertook to conclusively negate at least one of the essential elements of the Flyes' cause of action for gross negligence. Tex. R. Civ. P. 166a(c); Randall's Food Mkts., Inc. v. Johnson, 891 S.W.2d 640, 644 (Tex. 1995) (citing Wornick Co. v. Casas, 856 S.W.2d 732, 733 (Tex. 1993)). The court granted summary judgment in favor of the City on all claims. Because the Statute applies, we ask whether a genuine issue of material fact exists about whether the City breached the limited duty it owed to Allen. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 75.002(c)(2); Nixon, 690 S.W.2d at 548.

The City contends that this is a case involving premises liability and not a case of negligent activity. In Keetch v. Kroger, an invitee case, Keetch was injured when she slipped and fell on a wet floor in Kroger's store. The Texas Supreme Court noted that an employee had sprayed some plants "sometime prior to her 7:00 p.m. quitting time" and that Keetch fell at approximately 7:30 p.m. Noting that "there was no ongoing activity when Keetch was injured," the Court said, "Recovery on a negligent activity theory requires that the person have been injured by or as a contemporaneous result of the activity itself rather than by a condition created by the activity." Keetch v. Kroger, 845 S.W.2d 262, 264 (Tex. 1992).

In Smither v. Texas Utilities Elec., a trespass case, Michael Smither drowned in a discharge canal operated by Texas Utilities ("TU"). His widow sued TU, alleging it was negligent and grossly negligent in failing to erect proper barriers, failing to

Page 648

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