If the Texas recreational-use statute applies, then a landowner’s liability is limited when a guest is injured on the owner’s property while engaged in recreation. (See Chapter 75 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code).
In the recent case of Meredith v. Chezem , 03-18-00256-CV, 2018 WL 6425017 (Tex. App.—Austin Dec. 7, 2018, no pet. h.), the Austin Court of Appeals overturned a judgment based upon a jury verdict finding that a landowner’s negligence proximately caused injuries to a 12-year-old girl while riding an ATV on the landowner’s property. The minor child, Carli, was visiting her 12-year-old friend, Courtney Meredith, at the Meredith’s home in Burnet County. During the visit, the Merediths gave the 12-year-old girls permission to drive around on the Meredith’s property on the family ATV. The Merediths did not supervise the girls and Courtney made a sharp turn while driving the ATV causing it to flip over and break Carli’s ankle requiring surgery. Carli’s father filed suit on Carli’s behalf and the jury found that the Meredith’s negligence proximately caused Carli’s injuries and awarded $88,620 in damages. However, the jury found that the conduct of the Merediths did not constitute gross negligence.
The Merediths cited the recreational-use-statute and moved the trial court to enter a take nothing judgment since there was no finding by the jury of gross negligence. The trial court denied the request and entered a judgment awarding the damages in the amount found by the jury.
The Austin Court of appeals held that the Texas recreational-use statute applied because the Meredith’s property was agricultural land and Carli was invited as a social guest to the Meredith’s property for recreational purposes. Since the statute applied, Carli’s father was required to prove that Carli’s injuries were the result of the Meredith’s gross negligence, malicious intent, or bad faith. Given that the jury found that the Meredith’s were only negligent but not grossly negligent, then under the statute, the Merediths were not liable for the injuries. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and rendered judgment that Carli take nothing on her injury claims.