Knorpp v. Hale

981 S.W.2d 469



In Texas, a "social guest" is classified as a licensee. A host owes a social guest a duty not to injure him or her by willful, wanton or gross negligence.


Appellant, administrator of a decedent's estate, sought review of the order from the District Court, that held that the appellant's decedent was a social guest licensee, not an invitee, when he cut down appellant landowners' tree that killed him, and that granted appellants' motion for a directed verdict on appellee's negligence complaint. The decedent of appellant, the administrator of the decedent's estate, visited appellee landowners' home frequently in order to date their daughter. When appellee attempted to cut down a tree on appellee's property, the tree fell down on him and killed him. Appellant sued, and the trial court directed a verdict for appellees.


Did the district court err in granting appellant's motion for a directed verdict on appellee's negligence complaint?




On review, the court held that because the decedent was a social guest, and because he was not expecting payment for cutting down the tree, the decedent was a licensee under Texas law. Thus, appellees' duty to the decedent was to refrain from injuring him by willful or grossly negligence conduct. Because the tree was not in dangerous condition until the decedent attempted to cut it down, and because the decedent created the dangerous condition and appellees did not know that the decedent was creating a dangerous condition when he was cutting down the tree, appellees had no duty to warn the decedent about the tree and did not breach their duty to him.

The court affirmed the order.

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