Landowner Not Required To Warn Of Open And Obvious Danger That Was Necessarily Undertaken By Employee To Complete His Work

Published date26 April 2022
Subject MatterLitigation, Mediation & Arbitration, Real Estate and Construction, Energy and Natural Resources, Energy Law, Oil, Gas & Electricity, Personal Injury, Real Estate
Law FirmWood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP
AuthorChristopher K. Chapaneri and Jessica R. Gonzales

Generally, a property owner is required to warn contractors performing work on their property of dangerous conditions. Where the condition is open and obvious, however, this obligation is no longer required and the property owner will not be liable for any personal injuries or property damage that occur due to the known danger.

Background Facts

OTI Energy Services was retained by Sandridge Energy to modify electrical distribution lines related to its operations in oil and gas. John Barfield worked for OTI as a power lineman and was responsible for adding neutral lines to existing poles carrying energized overhead lines. Barfield testified that Sandridge refused to allow OTI to de-energize the overhead supply lines while the crew performed its work bringing them unnecessarily close to live lines. Barfield was injured at work while working on the lines. He suffered an electrical shock which knocked him unconscious and caused him to suffer severe burns to 15% of his body. As a result of the electrical shock, his left arm had to be amputated at the shoulder and his right arm at the elbow.

Barfield brought an action against Sandridge alleging negligence claiming that Sandridge breached its duty of care when it had control over the manner in which the work was performed, was aware of the dangerous condition and failed to adequately warn Barfield of the danger. Sandridge moved for summary judgment arguing that Barfield was fully aware that the supply lines were energized when he was conducting his work on the day of the injury. Sandridge moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The court of appeals reversed and the defendants appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

Did Sandridge Fail to Adequately Warn Barfield of the Danger Posed By the Energized Line?

At common law the landowner was required to give a warning sufficient to provide the invitee with the information necessary to make an intelligent decision as to whether or not they chose to enter and risk the danger. The warning was also meant to allow the invitee to take such precautions as they deemed necessary to protect themselves. The law presumes that invitees will take reasonable measures to keep themselves safe from known dangers and risks. If the danger is known to the invitee the property owner has no duty to warn. "When an invitee has knowledge and appreciation of the danger, then the landowner has no duty to warn of it." Austin v. Kroger Tex., 465 S.W.3d 193, 203 (Tex. 2015).


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