On April 23 TCJL filed an amicus brief with the Texas Supreme Court in Occidental Chemical Corporation v. Jason Jenkins (No. 13-0961). In its brief, TCJL asks the Court to grant review of a First District Court of Appeals (Houston) decision to reverse the trial court’s determination that the Respondent’s personal injury claim against Occidental was barred by the 10-year statute of repose that applies to claims against registered and licensed engineers, architects, and other professionals that design, plan, and inspect improvements to real property. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 16.008.
TCJL argues that the First District Court of Appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s determination that the Respondent’s claim was barred by Texas’s ten-year statute of repose for engineers who design, plan, and inspect improvements to real property. If the Court of Appeals’ decision is permitted to stand, it will effectively nullify the statute and subject engineers to continuing and indefinite liability for alleged design defects. In addition to having the potential to substantially raise the cost of engineering services and insurance, the decision is so far out of step with the national mainstream of tort law that businesses, especially those that must allocate capital investment to facilities located both within and outside of Texas, may decide that the potential costs of investing in improvements to real property in Texas are too great.
TCJL further concurs with amicus Texas Chemical Council that the Court of Appeals’ decision radically undermines longstanding Texas law governing premises liability by adopting a “negligent activity” theory never before applied in Texas. If allowed to stand, this radical new theory will subject property owners in Texas to temporally indefinite and unlimited liability for conditions on real property that has been conveyed to another owner. TCJL urges the Court to grant review and correct this erroneous interpretation of Texas law as well.
Other amici include the Texas Association of Manufacturers, American Chemistry Council, and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.