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Robinson v. Ochoa

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

April 5, 2018

LETY ROBINSON, INDIVIDUALLY AND D/B/A KISS'L FLOWERS SHOP, LLC, Appellant,
v.
CARLOS OCHOA, ROSALINDA R. OCHOA AND LORENA OCHOA, Appellees.

          On appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 of Cameron County, Texas.

          Before Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Hinojosa Memorandum Opinion by Justice Hinojosa

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LETICIA HINOJOSA Justice.

         Appellant Lety Robinson, individually and d/b/a Kiss'l Flowers Shop, LLC (Robinson) appeals from a judgment, following a bench trial, entered in favor of appellees Carlos Ochoa, Rosalinda R. Ochoa, and Lorena Ochoa. By thirteen issues, which we treat as six, Robinson argues that: the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support (1) liability, (2) damages, and (3) attorney's fees; (4) Rosalinda and Carlos lack capacity to bring suit; (5) the trial court abused its discretion by denying Robinson's oral motion for continuance; and (6) the judgment improperly awards travel expenses and contains the wrong post-judgment interest rate. We affirm as modified.

         I. Background

         Carlos and Rosalinda contracted with Robinson to provide catering, decorations, and other services for their daughter Lorena's wedding. Appellees believed that Robinson did not deliver as promised, and they later sued Robinson for breach of contract, fraud, conversion, promissory estoppel, money had and received, and violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA). See Tex. Bus. & Com. Code Ann. §§ 17.41-.63 (West, Westlaw through 2017 1st C.S.).

         Lorena was appellees' sole witness at trial. She testified that her mother Rosalinda originally contacted Robinson to coordinate her wedding, which was to be held in Brownsville, Texas, where most of appellees' extended family resided. Rosalinda travelled from her home in Memphis, Tennessee to visit with Robinson a month before the wedding and ultimately agreed to retain her as the wedding coordinator. Lorena, who resided in Lubbock, Texas, participated in the planning of the wedding by phone and later met Robinson in person the week before the wedding.

         A. Agreement for Wedding Services

         A month before the wedding, Rosalinda agreed to pay Robinson $25, 900.[1] In return, Robinson was to provide the following: bouquets for the bride, maid of honor, and two bridesmaids; ten boutonnieres; natural floral decorations for each pew in the church; further natural floral decorations for the church and reception venue; table settings and catering for fifty-two tables and 412 guests; twenty-five waiters; a wedding cake with floral decorations; photographs and video of the wedding and reception; a photograph area for guests at the reception; two lounge areas; and lighting for both the wedding and reception.

         Rosalinda paid an initial deposit of $2, 600. The week before the wedding, Lorena met with Robinson in person, and Robinson provided a demonstration of the table settings, flower arrangements, and church and reception decorations. Robinson also showed Lorena examples of the lighting that she intended to provide for the wedding. According to Lorena, the lighting was an important consideration because it was "supposed to transform the venue" and "make it seem a little bit more cozier."

         B. Issues with Payment

         On the day of the wedding, Robinson provided an invoice in the amount of $30, 171.44. Appellees did not object to the increased price and paid the total amount by check. Robinson, however, was concerned that the check was not covered by sufficient funds. Therefore, she demanded that appellees provide a cash payment. Carlos paid Robinson $23, 000 in cash. Following the wedding, Robinson deposited appellees' check, and the check cleared, resulting in an excess payment in the amount of $25, 600, representing the cash payment and the initial $2, 600 deposit. After suit was filed, but before trial, Robinson returned the excess payment to appellees. At trial, appellees sought no damages as a result of Robinson's holding of the excess funds.

         C. Services Provided by Robinson

         Lorena testified concerning the goods and services Robinson failed to provide. For instance, Robinson did not provide bridal or bridesmaids bouquets. As a result, Lorena was forced to use her maid of honor's bouquet for the wedding, and her bridesmaids resorted to taking flowers from the pews to use as bouquets. Robinson provided only three of the ten boutonnieres. Approximately half of the flowers used for decorations were artificial, and only the first two pews of the church were decorated with flowers. There were no decorations for the "backdrop" at the wedding reception. The lighting at the reception was not as elaborate as what Robinson demonstrated before the wedding. Rather, it was very "limited, " and most of the lighting at the reception was provided by the disc jockey retained separately by appellees. Lorena also stated that the cake did not have any floral decorations. Further, the table settings at the reception were incomplete: "Some didn't have any silverware, only some had water glasses." Robinson did not furnish any plates or forks to serve the wedding cake. Only one lounge area was provided, rather than two, and there was no area for reception guests to have their picture taken. Seven waiters were provided for the approximately 400 guests. Robinson did not provide appellees with photographs or video of the wedding. After suit was filed, appellees ultimately paid an additional $900 to the photographer to release the photographs and video. Lorena estimated that the monetary difference between what Robinson promised and what she delivered was between $10, 000 and $15, 000.

          D. Robinson's Testimony

         Robinson acknowledged that her services for the wedding were not perfect, but she did a great job by her own estimation. Robinson claimed appellees never informed her of their dissatisfaction until after the wedding.

         E. Trial Court's Judgment

After the close of evidence, the trial court announced the following:
After listening to the testimony yesterday and hearing counsel and Ms. Robinson, I reviewed the contract and I took everything into consideration, it's my ruling that [appellees] should be awarded $15, 000. I found that the-what they had agreed upon was not-let me look through my notes. What they got was not delivered. The lighting, the flower arrangements, the bouquet or lack of bouquet, the photos that they had to pay another $900 for, the lounge area that was not what they requested or agreed upon, the food, the waiters, the lack of plates and the napkins for the wedding cake, that's why I made that ruling in the amount of $15, 000.

In its written judgment, the trial court awarded appellees: $15, 000 in damages; $2, 500 for travel expenses; $15, 000 for attorney's fees; and 8.25% in post-judgment interest. The trial court also awarded conditional appellate attorney fees of $3, 000 for an appeal to this Court and $3, 000 for an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. Robinson filed a motion for new trial, which the trial court denied. Neither party requested findings of fact or conclusions of law. This appeal followed.

         II. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         By her first three issues, Robinson challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting each of appellees' claims.

          A. Standard of Review

         In a bench trial in which no findings of fact or conclusions of law are requested by the parties or filed by the trial court, we imply all findings of fact necessary to support the judgment. See BMC Software Belg., N.V. v. Marchand, 83 S.W.3d 789, 795 (Tex. 2002). When the appellate record includes the reporter's and clerk's records, these implied findings are not conclusive and may be challenged for legal and factual sufficiency. Id. We review the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the findings by applying the same standards that we use in reviewing the legal or factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting jury findings. Catalina v. Blasdel, 881 S.W.2d 295, 297 (Tex. 1994); see also Uribe v. Pharia, LLC, No. 13-13-00551-CV, 2014 WL 3555529, at *4 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi July 17, 2014) (mem. op.). The trier of fact is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to give their testimony. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 819 (Tex. 2005).

         The test for legal sufficiency is "whether the evidence at trial would enable reasonable and fair-minded people to reach the verdict under review." Id. at 827. In making this determination, we credit favorable evidence if a reasonable fact-finder could, and disregard contrary evidence unless a reasonable fact-finder could not. Id. So long as the evidence falls within the zone of reasonable disagreement, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the fact-finder. Id. at 822. Although we consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the challenged findings, indulging every reasonable inference that supports them, we may not disregard evidence that allows only one inference. Id.

          When an appellant challenges the factual sufficiency of the evidence on an issue, we consider all the evidence supporting and contradicting the finding. Plas-Tex, Inc. v. U.S. Steel Corp., 772 S.W.2d 442, 445 (Tex. 1989); Fulgham v. Fischer, 349 S.W.3d 153, 157 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2011, no pet.). We set aside the finding for factual insufficiency only if the finding is so contrary to the evidence as to be clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986) (per curiam); Fulgham, 349 S.W.3d at 157.

         B. Breach of Contract

         We first address Robinson's challenge to appellees' breach of contract claim. Robinson argues that the parties' agreement was not sufficiently definite and is therefore unenforceable. Robinson further ...


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