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American Industries Life Insurance Co. v. Ruvalcaba

    Brief Fact Summary.

    A mother’s son (Plaintiff) was severely injured when he slipped through open handrail and landed on his head while walking down a staircase. Plaintiff sued the owner, Defendant, for damages.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A licensee cannot recover damages under premises liability If a property owner did not act with gross negligence or know of a dangerous condition(s).

    Facts.

    Johnathan Ruvalcaba (Plaintiff) and his mother visited Johnathan’s father at his work building. The staircase in the building had an open handrail that violated the applicable building code. While Plaintiff and his mother were going down the staircase, Plaintiff fell through the handrail and fell to the ground, landing on his head. Plaintiff suffered grave injuries and brain damage.  Plaintiff’s parents brought a suit for damages against the Defendant owner, American Industries Life Insurance Company, on a premises liability claim. The trial court determined that American Industries was not grossly negligent. However, the trial court considered Plaintiff to be an invitee and awarded him money damages of $8,384,657.52. American Industries appealed the trial court’s decision.

    Issue.

    Whether a licensee can recover under premises liability if a property owner did not act with gross negligence or knew of a dangerous condition(s).

    Held.

    No. A licensee may not recover under the premises liability if a property owner did not act with gross negligence or know of a dangerous condition.

    Discussion.

    A property owes a duty to not injure a licensee willfully, wrongfully, or through gross negligence.



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