Kris Seago
Government/Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Academic Lower Division
Austin Community College
  • ACC Liberal Arts
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:

    Introduction: The Texas Court System


    Introduction: The Texas Court System

    Learning Objective

    By the end of this chapter, you will be able to:

    • Explain the structure and function of the judicial branch of the Texas government


    How much does a bar or restaurant have to do to protect customers from harm, especially harm resulting in part from their own actions?

    In 2007, the Del Lago Resort, an upscale golf resort north of Houston, booked a wedding reception alongside the second night of a three-day college fraternity reunion. Members of both groups ended up in the resort’s bar, where a brawl ensued “involving twenty to forty ‘very intoxicated’ customers.” After they “waded into the scrum,” one of the fraternity members, Bradley Smith, was seriously injured.

    Smith sued Del Lago in a Texas state district court, claiming the resort should have done more to protect him from harm. After nine days of conflicting testimony, jurors found Smith 49 percent liable for his own injuries, but found Del Lago 51 percent at fault and awarded nearly $1.5 million to Smith. The Tenth Court of Appeals in Waco reviewed the case and upheld the verdict, ruling that a “reasonable person who knew or should have known of the one-and-a-half hours of ongoing ‘heated’ verbal altercations and shoving matches between intoxicated bar patrons would reasonably foresee the potential for assaultive conduct to occur and take action to make the condition of the premises reasonably safe.”

    On further appeal, the nine-member Texas Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals decision, issuing a 6-3 opinion. Chief Justice Nathan Hecht was one of three justices who wrote a dissenting opinion, disagreeing with the majority opinion. Among other reasons, Hecht felt Smith’s own actions played a larger part in his injuries than what had been determined by the lower courts. In Texas, you can’t recover at all if you’re more at fault than the party you’re suing. 49 percent is the greatest amount of fault you can have and still collect money.

    Court decisions like this one determine what happens to the parties in that specific case, but they can also set precedents that will be followed by other courts for years to come. After the Del Lago decision, bars and restaurants throughout Texas took a hard look at their policies and procedures to try to prevent such altercations from occurring, and to make sure they could protect themselves from liability in the event of a similar disturbance.

    In this chapter, we’ll take a look at the Texas Judicial System.

    License and Attribution


    The Court System of Texas: Introduction. Authored by: Andrew Teas. License: CC BY: Attribution