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Gobezie v. Castillo

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

February 26, 2018


         On Appeal from the 192nd Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-15-03934

          Before Justices Francis, Evans, and Boatright



         Gudaye Gobezie appeals from an adverse judgment after a trial before the court on claims brought by Sandra Castillo and Jorgo Valeriano arising out of their car purchase from Prolife Auto Garland. Gobezie generally challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting the judgment against her as well as the trial court's award of attorney's fees. We affirm the trial court's judgment.


         In December 2014, appellees Sandra Castillo and her husband Jorgo Valeriano traveled from Oklahoma to Garland, Texas to purchase a 2003 Honda Accord being sold by Prolife Auto Garland. Appellees paid $5000 cash for the vehicle after obtaining a loan from their bank. At trial, Castillo testified that she gave Gobezie the money for the car. After they took possession of the vehicle and returned to Oklahoma, however, appellees did not receive the paperwork to obtain legal title to the vehicle. Appellees traveled six times from Oklahoma to Garland attempting to resolve the title issue. On their last visit to Garland, in March 2015, appellees were given a $5000 check, but the bank refused to cash it. Unable to get their money back or obtain legal title to the car, appellees sued Gudaye Gobezie d/b/a Prolife Auto Garland and others for, among other things, breach of implied warranty to convey legal title and attorney's fees. The matter was tried before the court sitting without a jury.[1] The trial rendered a judgment in favor of appellees, awarding them $5000 in damages and $5100 in attorney's fees. Gobezie filed this appeal.


         A. Legal and Factual Sufficiency

         Gobezie contends the evidence is legally and/or factually insufficient to support the damages awarded against her because (a) there is no evidence connecting her or Prolife Auto Garland to appellees' car purchase, (b) collateral estoppel precludes a liability finding against Gobezie, and (c) the trial court awarded appellees an impermissible double recovery.

         Before turning to the merits of her sufficiency complaints, we first address her briefing with respect to her factual sufficiency challenge. Although Gobezie's stated "issue" purports to challenge the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence, her brief contains no argument or legal authority addressing a factual sufficiency challenge. The section of her argument entitled "standard of review" under this issue cites three Texas Supreme Court cases, all addressing legal sufficiency.[2] Finally, in her prayer for relief, Gobezie requests that we render judgment in her favor, a remedy available only in the context of a legal sufficiency challenge. See Elias v. Mr. Yamaha, Inc., 33 S.W.3d 54, 59 n.6 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2000, no pet.). To present an issue to this Court, a party must present a concise argument for the contention made with appropriate citations to authorities and the record. See Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(i). When a party fails to provide any argument to support a stated issue, she presents nothing for us to review. Because Gobezie has failed to provide us with any argument, analysis, or authority in support of her factual sufficiency challenge, we need not address it. Accordingly, our analysis only addresses Gobezie's legal sufficiency challenges.

         Where, as here, findings of fact were not requested by either party, we imply all necessary findings to support the trial court's judgment. See Shields Ltd. P'ship v. Bradberry, 526 S.W.3d 471, 480 (Tex. 2017). But when a reporter's record is filed, these implied findings may be challenged for legal and factual sufficiency in the same manner as jury findings or a trial court's express findings. See Roberson v. Robinson, 768 S.W.2d 280, 281 (Tex. 1989) (per curiam). In the absence of findings, we affirm the trial court's judgment if it can be upheld on any available legal theory that is supported by the record. Rosemond v. Al-Lahiq, 331 S.W.3d 764, 766 (Tex. 2011) (per curiam).

         In analyzing the legal sufficiency of the evidence, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, crediting evidence favoring the finding if reasonable factfinders could and disregarding contrary evidence unless reasonable factfinders could not. See Del Lago Partners, Inc. v. Smith, 307 S.W.3d 762, 770 (Tex. 2010) (citing City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 822, 827 (Tex. 2005)). We will uphold the finding if more than a scintilla of competent evidence supports it. Haggar Clothing Co. v. Hernandez, 164 S.W.3d 386, 388 (Tex. 2005) (per curiam); see also City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 810. The final test for legal sufficiency is "whether the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to reach the verdict under review." City of Keller, 168 S.W.3d at 827. When conducting our legal sufficiency review, we are mindful that the factfinder is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. See id. at 819.

         Gobezie argues that the evidence is legally insufficient to support a judgment against her because appellees did not provide any documentation from their bank indicating to whom payment was made for the vehicle. She further contends appellees testified each time they visited the Garland location, they interacted with another individual, while she testified that she was not involved in any of the transactions or even present at the Garland location at any of the relevant times. Finally, she asserts she was not connected to any of the companies listed on the paperwork involved in the transaction, namely - the Buyer's Order for the vehicle identifying the Seller as "Pro Life Garland, " the paid invoice naming "Prolife Auto, " and the refund check from "Prolife-MJMD."

         Our review of the trial record reveals that Castillo identified Gobezie as the person to whom she gave the $5000 for the vehicle and Gobezie counted the money in front of her. She testified that she called the Garland shop and Gobezie told her son over the phone that the title would arrive in six days. Castillo further stated Gobezie was there when appellees picked up the check they were unable to cash. There was an assumed name certificate recorded on July 28, 2014 admitted into evidence showing "Prolife Auto Garland" operating as a general partnership at the location where appellees purchased the vehicle. The owners of the partnership were identified on the certificate as ...

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