DAVID W. HUFFINES, JANA LIL HUFFINES AND KATHLEEN MARIE HUFFINES, Appellants
BARBARA BUXTON, Appellee
Appeal from the 295th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2012-39240.
consists of Justices Christopher, Donovan, and Jewell.
case began as a personal-injury lawsuit arising out of a
minor car accident, but it turned into a wrongful-death
action after the lead plaintiff committed suicide. The jury
found in favor of the defendant, and now, in two issues, the
surviving plaintiffs argue that the charge was erroneous and
that the evidence is insufficient to support the jury's
adverse findings. Because we conclude that any charge error
was harmless and that there is sufficient evidence to support
the jury's findings, we overrule both issues and affirm
the trial court's judgment.
accident occurred when Barbara Buxton attempted to drive her
vehicle across the divided thoroughfare that separated a
shopping center from her residential subdivision. Barbara
successfully crossed the eastbound lanes of the thoroughfare
and entered the median, where she hoped to continue
northbound into her subdivision. When she attempted to cross
the westbound lanes, she was broadsided (or
"t-boned") by David Huffines.
were no traffic lights at the intersection, and David had the
right of way. He had been traveling in the outermost lane of
the thoroughfare at around thirty-five miles per hour. When
David saw Barbara enter the thoroughfare roughly five car
lengths ahead of him, he slammed on his brakes, but his truck
still made contact with the front passenger door of her car.
and David pulled into the entrance of the subdivision to
exchange information and assess the damage. Barbara found
that her door was "smashed, " but according to her,
"it wasn't that bad." David's truck endured
minor damage to the bumper.
bodily injuries, Barbara reported none and David said that he
was "okay." No air bags deployed in the collision,
and neither party required medical attention at the scene.
Both parties drove away without obtaining a police report.
began to experience discomfort shortly after the accident. He
felt pain in his neck, back, and groin, all locations where
he had preexisting conditions. David underwent several
medical procedures to alleviate the pain, including steroid
injections and surgery, but his pain continued to worsen over
time, which led to a substantial disruption of his daily
routine. As the pain intensified, he told friends and family
that he was beginning to contemplate suicide. During the
pendency of this lawsuit, he took his own life.
lawsuit proceeded with claims made by David's wife and
daughter.During the trial, David's deposition
testimony was read into evidence. David testified that he had
been driving with a Thermos cup between his legs because his
truck did not have cup holders. He also said that when the
accident occurred, his body curled forward into the steering
column, pressing the Thermos cup into his abdomen and groin.
testified that she checked for oncoming traffic when she
entered the median and that she decided to cross the
westbound lanes because she believed that the thoroughfare
was clear. She explained that she did not see David because
this portion of the thoroughfare was flanked by shade trees;
David's truck was dark green; and at that time of day,
when shadows were falling on the thoroughfare, the truck
appeared to be "camouflaged."
defense attorney elicited testimony about David's
preexisting conditions from his surviving family members. The
testimony established that David had inguinal hernia surgery
seven years before his collision with Barbara. Eleven years
before that, David was seriously injured in another
collision, when he was hit head-on by a wrong-way driver who
was intentionally trying to kill herself. David was ejected
through his windshield in that accident, while still attached
to his own seat, which broke loose from the floor bolts. He
was temporarily paralyzed, having suffered severe damage to
his neck and back.
trial court submitted two liability questions to the jury.
The first asked whether Barbara's negligence, if any,
proximately caused David's injuries up to the time of his
death. The second asked whether Barbara's negligence, if
any, proximately caused David's death. The jury answered
both questions ...