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Gutierrez v. Hadsell

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

May 3, 2017

MARIA LUISA GUTIERREZ, Appellant
v.
CANDACE RENEE HADSELL, Appellee

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 5 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-13-05902-E.

          Before Justices Lang, Fillmore, and Schenck

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID J. SCHENCK JUSTICE

         Maria Luisa Gutierrez appeals the trial court's judgment in her favor, urging that it awarded inadequate compensatory damages. She argues the evidence is factually insufficient to support the amount of medical expenses awarded her and the zero-damages award of past physical pain and mental anguish. We affirm.

         Factual & Procedural Background

         On January 19, 2013, Gutierrez drove a car involved in a multi-vehicle accident. She later filed suit against two other drivers, Luz Cordero Shepherd and Candace Renee Hadsell, for negligence. Before trial, Gutierrez and Shepherd reached a settlement and filed a motion requesting the trial court dismiss with prejudice Gutierrez's claim against Shepherd, which the trial court granted. At trial, Gutierrez argued Shepherd's, Gutierrez's, and Julius Dean Rivers's vehicles were all stopped one after the other in a single lane waiting for a truck in front of them to make a left turn when Hadsell collided with Shepherd's car, forcing Shepherd's car into Gutierrez's car, and forcing Gutierrez's car into Rivers's truck ahead of her.

         After a trial on the merits, the jury returned a verdict finding Shepherd fifty percent negligent, Gutierrez thirty-five percent negligent, and Hadsell fifteen percent negligent. The jury awarded Gutierrez $3, 833.24 in damages for medical expenses, but awarded her nothing for past physical pain and mental anguish, future pain and mental anguish, past physical impairment, and loss of earning capacity.

         Gutierrez moved for a new trial, arguing among other things that the jury's award for medical expenses was not supported by factually sufficient evidence, the jury improperly reduced the medical expenses award by the negligence of both Gutierrez and Shepherd, and the jury's zero damages award for past physical pain and mental anguish was not supported by factually sufficient evidence. Hadsell responded to Gutierrez's motion for new trial, arguing it should be denied, and in the alternative requested a judgment notwithstanding the verdict awarding Gutierrez the full amount of medical expenses she sought at trial. The trial court denied Gutierrez's motion for new trial and entered a judgment notwithstanding the jury's verdict that ordered Hadsell to pay Gutierrez double the amount of medical expenses found by the jury and all costs of court. The final judgment also found Shepherd fifty percent negligent, Gutierrez thirty-five percent negligent, and Hadsell fifteen percent negligent. Gutierrez then filed this appeal.

         Discussion

         I. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a factual-sufficiency challenge to an adverse finding on which the party had the burden of proof, we determine whether the adverse finding is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis, 46 S.W.3d 237, 242 (Tex. 2001) (per curiam). We consider all the evidence in the record pertinent to that finding and will set aside the judgment only if it so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that it is clearly wrong and unjust. Id.

         II. Sufficiency of Evidence to Support Award of Medical Expenses

         In her first issue, Gutierrez argues the jury's award of $3, 833.24 for past medical expenses was against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. She contends she presented evidence that she had incurred $25, 554.96. She urges that "the jury improperly reduced her medical expenses by eighty-five percent" based on the finding that Hadsell was fifteen percent negligent.

         Under section 33.013 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Hadsell would be liable to Gutierrez "only for the percentage of damages found by the trier of fact equal to [her] percentage of responsibility." Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.013(a) (West 2016). Gutierrez does not dispute the jury's liability finding that Hadsell was only fifteen percent negligent. Thus, had the jury awarded Gutierrez the full amount of medical expenses she alleges she established, $25, ...


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