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Minshall v. Hartman Equine Reproduction Center, P.A.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

April 26, 2017

SHAWN MINSHALL, LISA VICTORIA MINSHALL, LAUREN VICTORIA MINSHALL
v.
HARTMAN EQUINE REPRODUCTION CENTER, P.A.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Plaintiffs' Motion for Entry of Judgment (Dkt. #132). Having considered the motion and the pleadings, the Court finds that the motion should be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         This civil action proceeded to a jury trial on February 27, 28 and on March 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7, 2017. Plaintiffs alleged Defendant was liable for (1) violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act; (2) negligent misrepresentation; (3) negligence; (4) fraud; (5) joint enterprise; (6) civil conspiracy; and (7) aiding and abetting after Otto, a foal Plaintiffs bred at Defendant veterinary clinic, contracted Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (“HERDA”), a genetic skin disease.

         The jury returned a verdict on March 7, 2017. The jury found that Plaintiffs proved by a preponderance of the evidence that Defendant's negligence proximately caused Plaintiffs' damages (Dkt. #131, Question 7). The jury found no liability against Defendant as to Plaintiffs claims for violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, negligent misrepresentation, fraud, joint enterprise, civil conspiracy, and aiding and abetting (Dkt. #131). The parties dispute the measure of damages for Plaintiffs' negligence claim and whether the Court should award attorneys' fees. The Court finds Plaintiffs are entitled to $3, 000 in damages and are not entitled to an award of attorneys' fees.

         Damages

         At the conclusion of the evidence, the Court submitted final instructions to the jury providing specific factors for the jury to consider when awarding damages for each specific cause of action (Dkt. #124). The Court instructed the jury that if it found Defendant negligent, in awarding damages it should consider “the difference, if any, in the market value of Otto and the market value Otto would have had if he had not been HERDA-affected.” (Dkt. #124 at p. 23). See Pasadena State Bank v. Isaac, 228 S.W.2d 127 (Tex. 1950) (holding that “the general rule for measuring damages to personal property is the difference in the market value immediately before and immediately after the injury to such property”); Texas Pattern Jury Charges: Negligence § 31.3 (2016). For the other causes of action Plaintiffs alleged, the Court instructed the jury that it could consider additional factors in determining damages, such as the reasonable and necessary expenses related to foaling, raising, boarding, and training Otto in the past and future and Plaintiffs' lost profits (Dkt. #124 at p. 21-24). See Texas Pattern Jury Charges: Business §§ 115.9-10; 115.20-21.

         As requested by the parties, the verdict form contained one question regarding compensatory damages (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The question instructed the jury to answer “what sum of money . . . would fairly and reasonably compensate Plaintiffs for their damages, if any, that were a producing or proximate cause of the occurrence in question” (Dkt. #131, Question 14). The jury found the following damages:

• $30, 000 for the difference in value Otto would have had if he had not been HERDA-affected;
• $28, 408 for the reasonable and necessary expenses related to foaling, raising, boarding, and training Otto in the past;
• $75, 000 for the reasonable and necessary expenses, in reasonable probability, the Plaintiffs will incur related to caring for Otto in the future;
• $30, 000 for lost profits, in reasonable probability, Plaintiffs will sustain in the future.

(Dkt. #131, Question 14). The jury thus found compensatory damages totaling $163, 408. The jury further found that Defendant was ten percent responsible for Plaintiffs' injury (Dkt. #131, Question 19).

         Plaintiffs argue that they are entitled to $16, 340.80 in damages because the jury found Plaintiffs suffered damages of $163, 408 (Dkt. #132 at p. 3). Plaintiffs argue that “notwithstanding the jury instruction on negligence, compensatory damages for economic losses proximately caused by a party's negligence are available to the prevailing party as a matter of law in Texas.” (Dkt. #132 at p. 3). Defendant responds that pursuant to the Court's instructions, the only recoverable damage for negligence was the difference in the market value of Otto, which the jury found was $30, 000. Defendant ...


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