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Curtin v. Poindexter

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

June 27, 2018

Geoffrey Scott CURTIN, Appellant
v.
Laureen Ellen POINDEXTER, and Luke Casillas, LLC, d/b/a Dents N Dings, Appellees

          From the 150th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015CI00537 Honorable Renée Yanta, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice, Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice Irene Rios, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LUZ ELENA D. CHAPA, JUSTICE

         Geoffrey Scott Curtin seeks to set aside a jury's verdict awarding him damages in his negligence suit against appellees. Curtin argues that in light of the evidence at trial, the jury's damages findings are clearly wrong and manifestly unjust. He also argues the trial court erred by submitting a mitigation instruction and a question regarding his proportionate responsibility. Concluding the trial court did not err, and deferring to the jury's reasonable credibility determinations, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a personal injury case arising out of a car accident. Curtin was driving westbound in the leftmost lane on Interstate 410 in San Antonio. Laureen Poindexter was driving at least three to four car-lengths ahead in the next lane over to the right. A third driver was driving in the lane to the right of Poindexter.

         According to Poindexter, the third driver veered left into her lane. Poindexter started to move her car to the left to avoid hitting the car, but the third driver's car hit the right front side of Poindexter's car. Poindexter turned sharply to her left into Curtin's lane, losing control of her car. Poindexter's car spun around one hundred eighty degrees and collided with the median to Curtin's left. Curtin's car collided with Poindexter's car. Curtin saw Poindexter's car and the third driver's car come into close proximity and then collide, but Curtin did not apply his brakes until his car collided with Poindexter's car.

         Curtin and Poindexter waited on the scene until San Antonio Police Department officer Roland Rodriguez arrived. Curtin and Poindexter had no observable physical injuries after the accident, and both refused emergency medical treatment. After interviewing both Curtin and Poindexter, Officer Rodriguez determined Poindexter was solely at fault. Officer Rodriguez opined there was nothing Curtin could have done to avoid the accident. When the accident occurred, Poindexter was acting in the course and scope of her employment with Luke Casillas, LLC, d/b/a "Dents N Dings," and Curtin was a senior at the University of the Incarnate Word.

         Curtin sued Poindexter for negligently operating her vehicle. He also sued Dents N Dings, alleging vicarious liability for Poindexter's negligence and direct liability for negligent entrustment, hiring, training, and retention. Poindexter and Dents N Dings generally denied Curtin's allegations, and alleged Curtin was proportionately responsible and that he failed to mitigate his damages.

         The case proceeded to a jury trial, and the parties heavily disputed whether Curtin suffered a spinal injury as a result of the accident. Both sides presented the testimony of expert witnesses who testified about the existence and extent of Curtin's injuries. After the parties presented closing arguments, the jury found both Poindexter's and Curtin's negligence proximately caused Curtin's damages, but found Dents N Dings not liable for negligence.

         The jury also found Poindexter 60% responsible and Curtin 40% responsible and that $12, 500 would fairly and reasonably compensate Curtin for his past medical expenses. The jury found $0 in damages for Curtin's future medical expenses and past and future physical impairment and pain and mental anguish. Applying the jury's findings, the trial court rendered judgment awarding Curtin $7, 500.00 in damages, interest, and costs. Curtin appealed.

         PROPORTIONATE RESPONSIBILITY & PERCENTAGE OF RESPONSIBILITY FINDINGS

         Curtin argues there is legally and factually insufficient evidence to support the jury's findings that his negligence proximately caused the accident and that he was 40% responsible. Curtin bases his challenges to both of these findings on the same arguments, and challenges the percentage of responsibility findings separately only "in an abundance of caution." We therefore address both issues together.

         A. Standard of Review

         "When a party attacks the legal sufficiency of an adverse finding on an issue on which it did not have the burden of proof, it must demonstrate on appeal that no evidence supports the adverse finding." Cotter & Sons, Inc. v. BJ Corp., No. 04-16-00186-CV, 2017 WL 4801679, at *7 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Oct. 25, 2017, pet. filed) (op. on reh'g) (quoting Graham Cent. Station, Inc. v. Pena, 442 S.W.3d 261, 263 (Tex. 2014) (per curiam)). "We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, 'credit[ing] favorable evidence if reasonable jurors could, and disregard[ing] ...


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