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Premises owners and occupiers owe a duty to keep their premises safe for invitees against known conditions that pose unreasonable risks of harm. The duty is to take whatever action is reasonably prudent under the circumstances to reduce or to eliminate the unreasonable risk from that condition. The existence of this duty is a question of law for the court. When such a duty is owed, the premises owner or occupier must either adequately warn of the dangerous condition or make the condition reasonably safe.
TXI Operations, LP, was the owner and operator of the Dolen Sand Pit and was responsible for maintaining an unpaved road connecting the pit to the highway. David Perry, a truck driver for Campbell Ready Mix, regularly drove back and forth on the road to load and transport materials in connection with his duties for Campbell. On one trip down the road, his vehicle struck a hole at a cattle guard. As a result, he was thrown into the roof of the truck's cab and injured. Perry had already driven the road at least four times that day without injury, and admitted he knew the hole was there. He was also aware of a fifteen miles-per-hour speed limit sign that TXI had posted near the hole. Perry nevertheless claimed that TXI was negligent in failing to warn him of the existence of a road condition that it knew was dangerous. A jury found that Perry and TXI were both negligent and equally at fault. As a result, the trial court entered a judgment for Perry, reducing the jury's damage award by his percentage of fault. TXI appealed, claiming that posting the speed limit sign discharged its duty to warn Perry of the dangerous road condition. The court of appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court’s judgment. TXI appealed further, reiterating that the speed limit sign was an adequate warning of the dangerous road condition as a matter of law.
Was the speed limit sign an adequate warning of the dangerous road condition as a matter of law?
The judgment of the intermediate appellate court was affirmed. The supreme court concluded that the inadequacy of the sign was supported by the evidence that the driver was following the sign's instruction at the time of his injury. The record reflected some evidence that the warning here was not adequate to warn of the pothole and the pothole presented a risk even at a speed slower than the posted limit.