Texas Supreme Court Curbs Liability for Past Owners of Real Property
In Occidental Chemical Corporation v. Jenkins, a chemical-plant employee who was severely injured at work sued Occidental, which had owned the chemical plant many years prior to the accident but not at the time of the accident. The plaintiff sued Occidental on the theory that even though Occidental was no longer the owner of the plant (and thus not liable on a premises-liability theory), Occidental remained forever liable for its "negligent design" of improvements at the chemical plant made during the time it owned the plant. A panel of the First Court of Appeals in Houston agreed with the plaintiffs' theory, reversed the trial court's take-nothing judgment, and directed the trial court to enter judgment for the plaintiff.
Occidental appealed to the Texas Supreme Court on two theories: (1) that previous owners of real property in Texas do not remain forever liable for conditions on the premises; and (2) that the plaintiff's suit was barred by Texas's statute of repose. The Texas Supreme Court granted Occidental's petition and, in a precedent-setting tort-law decision, held that a previous owner of real property is not liable for its "negligence" in creating conditions on property it no longer owns. Occidental Chem. Corp. v. Jenkins, 478 S.W.3d 640 (Tex. 2016).
Occidental's Petition for Review
Texas Supreme Court Opinion
Please note: Ryan Clinton wrote the briefing on behalf of Occidental in the court of appeals and at the petition-for-review stage, but changed law firms (and did not thereafter participate in the case) after the petition-for-review stage.