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Jack In The Box, Inc. v. Skiles
June 8, 2007
221 S.W.3d 566
Texas Supreme Court
Published Opinion

Jack In The Box, Inc. v. Skiles

Supreme Court of Texas.

JACK IN THE BOX, INC., Petitioner,


Wade SKILES, Respondent.

No. 05–0911.


Feb. 9, 2007.


Rehearing Denied June 8, 2007.

Attorneys & Firms

*566 Jason Eric Kipness, Owen & Fazio, P.C., Dallas, for Petitioner.

Jason C.N. Smith, Law Offices of Art Brender, Fort Worth, for Respondent.



Wade Skiles injured his knees when he climbed up and jumped over a broken lift gate on the back of his employer’s truck. He sued his employer, Jack in the Box, Inc., for negligence. Jack in the Box asserted, among other defenses, that it owed no duty to warn Skiles of obvious dangers and moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, but the judgment was reversed by the Fifth Court of Appeals, which remanded the case for *567 trial. We reverse and render a take-nothing judgment in favor of Jack in the Box.

Skiles was employed by Jack in the Box as a tractor-trailer driver for twenty-four years. His job duties included the transport and delivery of food product to various Jack in the Box restaurants. The company trailers are equipped with automatic lift gates that assist drivers in loading and unloading food product. The drivers are instructed that if they encounter any problems with the lift gate, they should call the company’s independent service center and report the malfunction. A maintenance person is then sent to make repairs.

Skiles arrived for a delivery at a Jack in the Box restaurant in Seguin, Texas and attempted to lower the lift gate, but the gate would not operate. Skiles told the restaurant manager about the problem, but the manager responded that the restaurant was out of hamburger meat and it was the “lunch rush.” Skiles reported the problem to a supervisor at the Jack in the Box distribution center. He told the supervisor he was going to use a ladder to climb over the non-functioning lift gate so he could get to the food supplies needed by the restaurant. According to Skiles, the supervisor’s response was, “Good.” The supervisor did not have a clear recollection of his conversation with Skiles. He first testified he did not recall what he said to Skiles, but later said he “would have” told Skiles to call the service center. At any rate, following this conversation, Skiles obtained the ladder from the restaurant and used it to climb over the lift gate and jump into the back of the trailer. Skiles said that when he landed on the floor of the trailer, both of his knees “popped” and were injured. Skiles did not call the service center until after his injury. Upon completing his other scheduled deliveries, Skiles returned to the company distribution center and filed an employee injury claim form.

Because Jack in the Box is not a workers’ compensation subscriber, Skiles brought a negligence action against the company. Jack in the Box moved for summary judgment under 166a(i), which the trial court granted without stating the grounds for its decision. Skiles appealed the judgment to the Fifth Court of Appeals, attacking the trial court’s implied findings that: (1) there was no evidence Jack in the Box breached any duty owed to Skiles; (2) there was no evidence Jack in the Box’s negligence proximately caused Skiles’s injury; and (3) Skiles’s negligence was the sole proximate cause of his injury. The court of appeals decided all three issues in Skiles’s favor, reversed the judgment, and remanded the case to the trial court.

In this Court, Jack in the Box argues there is no evidence it owed and breached a duty to warn Skiles of an obviously dangerous condition. We agree and, because our holding on that issue is dispositive of the case, do not address the other issues.1

*568 The court of appeals looked to its own precedent in 197 S.W.3d 793 (Tex.2006).

In 170 S.W.3d at 181.

Skiles argues, however, that an employer has a duty to warn employees of dangerous activities that are not normally a part of their duties, and that having to use a ladder to climb over a lift gate was both dangerous and not normally part of his duties. See Id. at 353.

But Keng differed from Skiles’s experience in two important respects. First, unloading food product was a regular part of Skiles’s job and he was trained on how to handle situations when the lift gate would not operate. Second, Skiles acknowledges he voluntarily made the decision to find a ladder, jump into the trailer, and unload the hamburger meat.

The dangers associated with the use of a ladder to climb over a lift gate are common and obvious to anyone. Following our holding in Elwood, which we issued after the court of appeals’ opinion in this case, we conclude Jack in the Box owed no duty to warn Skiles of the danger posed by his intended use of the ladder. We reverse the court of appeals’ judgment and render a take-nothing judgment in favor of Jack in the Box.



Jack in the Box argues the court of appeals: (1) wrongly concluded Skiles raised a fact issue in his summary judgment affidavit; (2) erroneously determined Jack in the Box breached a duty to provide safe instrumentalities to Skiles; (3) incorrectly concluded there is evidence Jack in the Box owed and breached a duty to warn Skiles of a dangerous condition; (4) erroneously reversed the trial court’s dismissal of Skiles’s motion for summary judgment on the issue of no evidence of proximate cause; and (5) erred when it reversed the trial court’s judgment that Skiles was, as a matter of law, the sole proximate cause of the accident. We do not address whether the court of appeals committed error when it held Jack in the Box breached its duty to provide safe instrumentalities to Skiles because the court went on to conclude that the breach had no connection to Skiles’s injury. Thus, any error on the part of the court of appeals worked no harm against Jack in the Box.

End of Document