Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler
FROM THE 114TH JUDICIAL DISTRICT COURT SMITH COUNTY, TEXAS
Tr. Ct. No.16-2235-B
consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.
T. WORTHEN CHIEF JUSTICE
Sutton Chennault appeals from a summary judgment rendered in
favor of Michael Douglas Chennault in her suit for civil
assault and battery. In three issues, Regina contends that
the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence and
granting summary judgment for Douglas. We affirm.
November 5, 2014, Regina filed for a divorce from Douglas in
Anchorage, Alaska. She alleged that, after their separation,
he committed an assault and battery against her, causing her
severe injuries. In 2016, the Alaska trial court, following a
three-day trial, awarded custody of the couple's two
children to Regina and divided the couple's marital
property. The trial court entered findings of fact and
conclusions of law to support its judgment. The trial court
made the following finding of fact number seventy-one:
71. The parties have a large difference of opinion as to the
amount of unpaid marital medical bills incurred by Regina for
her orthopedic and other treatment. Regina claims that the
amount of these bills totals $204, 809.29. Douglas claims
that the amount of these bills totals $52, 370.73. The court
concludes that Douglas's summary of the outstanding
medical bills is more accurate than Regina's summary. The
court accepts Douglas's summary with a total for
Regina's unpaid marital medical expenses at $52, 370.73.
Regina is solely responsible for her medical expenses not
included on Douglas's summary. The court accepts
Douglas's explanations as the reasons that Regina's
charges are not accurately characterized as marital expenses.
Some of the disallowed expenses were written off by the
providers and other expenses were not adequately documented.
However, most of the questionable expenses were
post-separation medical expenses that Regina claims are
marital because she says that they were caused by
Douglas's domestic violence at or about the time of
separation. In other words, Regina claims that Douglas
injured her spine through his domestic violence and that, as
a result, he should pay her extensive post-separation medical
expenses including all of the spinal surgery costs for the
surgeries in November 2015 and February 2016. The problem
with Regina's claim is that it is not credible. There is
not one shred of documentation to support the claim that
Douglas injured Regina's spine during an act of domestic
violence. Regina presented no expert testimony to support her
claim. All that she has presented is her own testimony that
Douglas credibly disputes. Dr. Glass and Ms. Still asked for
documentation of Regina's claims. While Regina said that
she would produce evidence to support her claim, she never
did. Just like Dr. Glass, this court concludes that
Regina's claims are not credible. The court declines to
include any of Regina's post-separation medical expenses
as marital expenses or to make Douglas responsible for those
upon its ninety-nine findings of fact and twenty-two
conclusions of law, the trial court rendered a judgment
granting the divorce, determining custody of the children,
and dividing the marital estate. Following the divorce,
Douglas moved to Tyler, Smith County, Texas. In November
2016, Regina filed a civil suit for assault and battery in
Smith County district court. Douglas filed an answer to the
suit, asserting the affirmative defenses of res judicata and
collateral estoppel. He then filed a traditional motion for
summary judgment based on these two affirmative defenses. The
trial court granted the summary judgment without specifying
which ground it was relying upon. Regina timely filed this
third issue, Regina contends that the trial court erred in
failing to sustain her objection to the affidavit of Roberta
C. Erwin. The affidavit was included as part of Douglas's
summary judgment evidence in the Smith County, Texas
proceeding. In her objection, Regina argued that the
affidavit is conclusory, contains hearsay, and violates the
best evidence rule and a disciplinary rule of professional
conduct for attorneys.
was the attorney of record for Douglas in the divorce
proceedings in Alaska. This included her representation of
Douglas during the trial on custody and property issues held
from May 24-26, 2016. In her affidavit, Erwin stated that she
heard the testimony from both Regina and Douglas during the
trial and was familiar with the court's findings of fact
and conclusions of law. Erwin included the following three
10. I have read Ms. Chennault's petition filed in the
instant lawsuit in the 114th Judicial District
Court of Smith County, Texas. In an attempt to characterize
her post-separation medical expenses as marital debt, Ms.
Chennault made the same assault allegations in the Divorce
11. The Court in the Divorce Proceeding heard evidence on the
assault claims from Ms. Chennault and Mr. Chennault. After
hearing the evidence, the Court rejected the marital assault
claims and found Ms. Chennault to be not credible.
12. The judgment of the Court in the Divorce Proceeding is a
final judgment under the laws of the State of Alaska. Ms.
Chennault argued to the court that her post-separation
medical bills were a result of the alleged assault by Mr.
Chennault. The Court found that she had provided no evidence
of a causal connection between the alleged assault and the
damages claimed. In addition, the Court found that Ms.
Chennault was not credible as to her allegations. The Court
found that neither Mr. Chennault nor the marital estate was
responsible for Ms. Chennault's post separation medical
bills. The post-separation medical bills are the same medical
expenses that she seeks to recover in the instant lawsuit.
review a trial court's decision to admit or exclude
summary judgment evidence under an abuse of discretion
standard. Bagwell v. Ridge at Alta Vista Invs. I,
LLC, 440 S.W.3d 287, 296 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2014, pet.
denied). An abuse of discretion exists only when the
court's decision is made without reference to any guiding
rules and principles or is arbitrary or unreasonable.
Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d
238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985). We must ...