Law School Case Brief
Brinson Ford, Inc. v. Alger - 228 S.W.3d 161 (Tex. 2007)
A plaintiff in a premises liability case must establish that the premises owner knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on the premises that presented an unreasonable risk of harm and that the condition proximately caused the plaintiff's injuries. The duty a premises owner owes to its invitees is not that of an insurer. That is to say, a condition is not unreasonably dangerous simply because it is not foolproof. A condition is unreasonably dangerous if it presents an unreasonable risk of harm.
Plaintiff Connie Alger went to defendant Brinson Ford, Inc. to pick up friends. Alger exited through the front door where a pedestrian ramp lead to the parking lot. A small portion of the ramp extended beyond the handrails to the sidewalk. The ramp was the dealership’s main entrance, and Brinson Ford had no record that anyone had ever fallen from it in the nearly 10 years. Alger, when she turned to walk toward her car, stepped off the unrailed portion of the ramp and fell. Alger sued Brinson Ford alleging that the ramp's configuration was a premises condition posing an unreasonable risk of harm, Brinson Ford knew or should have known of the danger, and Brinson Ford failed to exercise ordinary care to protect her from it. Brinson filed a motion for summary judgment on the ground that there was no evidence of a premises condition that presented an unreasonable risk of harm. The summary judgment of the owner was granted. The Court of Appeals reversed the decision granting the summary judgment. Brinson Ford car sought review of a judgment of the Court of Appeals for the 10th District of Texas.
Did defendant premises owner fail to exercise due diligence in maintaining the ramp that has a portion without handrail, thereby posing an unreasonable risk of harm?
The Court held that Alger presented no evidence of a premises condition that posed an unreasonable risk of harm. The Court observed the following factors in favor of Brinson Ford: the area of the ramp without handrails met applicable safety standards and was further outlined in yellow stripping that the dealership added, which is a common method used to indicate a change in elevation; The highest point of the downward-sloping unrailed portion of the ramp was four inches, less than the height of an average step; No other customer visiting the property over a 10-year period had ever been injured by the ramp; nor has had the dealership received complaints about the ramp's safety. The Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and rendered judgment in favor of defendant Brinson Ford.
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