Crowell v. Housing Auth. of Dallas

In Crowell v. Housing Auth. of Dallas, 495 S.W.2d 887, 889 (Tex. 1973), the plaintiff alleged that a defective gas heater in an apartment that the Dallas Housing Authority leased and maintained caused his father to die from carbon-monoxide poisoning. 495 S.W.2d at 888. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's order granting the Authority summary judgment based on a lease provision limiting the Authority's liability for personal injury and property damage. Crowell, 495 S.W.2d at 888-89. In deciding whether the lease provision violated public policy, we stated that, generally, an agreement exempting a party from liability for negligent injury is void as against public policy. And we noted in dicta that the same rule applies to public utilities. Crowell, 495 S.W.2d at 889. The Court then concluded that the lease provision violated public policy because the Authority was a public body organized to provide safe and sanitary accommodations to people with low incomes who had no choice but to accept the lease's terms to have a place to live. Crowell, 495 S.W.2d at 889; cf. Churchill Forge, Inc. v. Brown, 61 S.W.3d 368 (Tex. 2001) (holding that the Texas Property Code permits a landlord and tenant to contract over who will pay for repairs irrespective of whether the tenant causes the damage).