Austin v. Kroger Texas, LP (Opinion)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff fell while mopping a restroom floor at a Kroger store. Plaintiff’s employer, Kroger Texas, LP, had elected not to subscribe to the Texas workers’ compensation system. Plaintiff filed suit against Kroger in state court, alleging negligence, gross negligence, and premises liability. Kroger removed the case to federal district court. The court granted summary judgment to Kroger. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part. At issue in this appeal was Plaintiff’s premises-liability claim. The Fifth Circuit concluded that the nature and scope of an employer’s duty to provide its employees with a safe workplace is unclear under Texas law when an employee is aware of the hazard or risk at issue and certified a question of law regarding the issue to the Texas Supreme Court. The Supreme Court answered that, under Texas law (1) an employer generally does not have a duty to warn or protect its employees from unreasonably dangerous premises conditions that are open and obvious or known to the employee; and (2) under this rule, the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act’s waiver of a nonsubscribing employer’s common law defenses does not eliminate an employee’s burden of proving that the employer owed him a duty as an element of a premises liability claim.