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Ruffin v. Sanchez

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

September 13, 2017

Rayanna RUFFIN, Appellant
Jose Rene SANCHEZ and Javier T. Rodriguez d/b/a Rocas Trucking, Appellees

         From the 225th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2014-CI-14321 Honorable Peter Sakai, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Sandee Bryan Marion, Chief Justice Karen Angelini, Justice Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice



         Rayanna Ruffin appeals a judgment awarding her damages for injuries she sustained in an automobile accident. Ruffin asserts the trial court erred in excluding an exhibit from evidence and granting a directed verdict on her gross negligence claim. Ruffin also contends the jury's damage award is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence. We affirm the trial court's judgment.


         On June 18, 2013, Jose Rene Sanchez, who was employed by Javier Rodriguez d/b/a Rocas Trucking, was driving a dump truck when the dump truck and an automobile being driven by Ruffin collided. Ruffin sued Sanchez and Rodriguez asserting negligence and gross negligence claims.

         The trial court granted a directed verdict on Ruffin's gross negligence claims, and a jury found the negligence of both Sanchez and Ruffin proximately caused the accident. The jury attributed 51% of the responsibility to Sanchez, and 49% to Ruffin. The jury awarded Ruffin $3, 460 for past medical expenses, $2, 000 for past physical pain and mental anguish, and $1, 000 for past physical impairment. Reducing the damage award by 49%, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of Ruffin for $3, 294.60, plus interest and court costs. Ruffin appeals.

         Exclusion of Evidence

         In her third issue on appeal, Ruffin contends the trial court erred in excluding an exhibit that listed "at least 26 safety and equipment violations that were issued against [Rocas Trucking] by the U.S. DOT shortly before and after the accident."

         "We review a trial court's exclusion of evidence for an abuse of discretion." JLG Trucking, LLC v. Garza, 466 S.W.3d 157, 161 (Tex. 2015). The exhibit Ruffin sought to have admitted consisted of two pages printed from the Department of Transportation's website listing violations apparently discovered during inspections of at least three different vehicles. When Ruffin offered the exhibit as evidence, objections were made that the exhibit was hearsay, was outside the pleadings which did not allege negligence based on improper maintenance, and was never produced during discovery. Based on these objections, the trial court excluded the exhibit from evidence.

         In her brief, Ruffin does not address any of the objections or argue how the trial court abused its discretion in sustaining those objections. Instead, her entire argument on this issue consists of three sentences. In the first sentence, she explains the reasons she sought to introduce the exhibit as evidence. She then argues, "The excluded evidence contained in Plaintiff's Exhibit 10 was admissible, was controlling on a material issue, and was not cumulative of other evidence." Finally, she states "The exclusion of this evidence probably caused the rendition of an improper judgment." Although Ruffin cites general legal authority to support her second and third statements, none of the cited authorities address why the exhibit was admissible because: (1) it did not contain hearsay or was admissible under an exception to the hearsay rule; (2) it related to a negligence theory alleged in Ruffin's pleadings; and (3) it was not required to be produced in discovery. "Because [Ruffin] fails to present any argument or analysis in [her] brief with respect to the propriety of the trial court's rulings on [the defendants'] objections, [she] has waived this complaint and has not established any error in connection with the trial court's evidentiary ruling[]." Flores v. Grayson Cty. Cent. Appraisal Dist., No. 05-16-00180-CV, 2016 WL 7384161, at *2 (Tex. App.-Dallas Dec. 21, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op.) (holding complaint regarding exclusion of evidence waived when appellant failed to address the hearsay and discovery objections raised as bases for excluding the evidence); see also In re Estate of Marley, 390 S.W.3d 421, 425 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2012, pet. denied) ("We have no duty-or even right-to perform an independent review of the record and applicable law to determine whether there was reversible error because, by doing so, we would abandon our role as neutral adjudicators and become an advocate."); Tex.R.App.P. 38.1(i) ("The [appellant's] brief must contain a clear and concise argument for contentions made, with appropriate citations to authorities and to the record.").

         Gross Negligence

         In her first two issues, Ruffin argues the trial court erred in granting a directed verdict on her gross negligence claims.

         "In reviewing the granting of a directed verdict, we follow the standard of review for assessing the legal sufficiency of the evidence." Ibarra v. Nat'l Constr. Rentals, Inc., 199 S.W.3d 32, 37 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2006, no pet.). "[W]e examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the person suffering an adverse judgment and decide whether there is any evidence of probative value to raise an issue of material fact on ...

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