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Brevelle v. Allen

Court of Appeals of Texas, First District

June 28, 2018

JAMES R. BREVELLE, Appellant
v.
CHARLES ALLEN, Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Civil Court at Law No. 2 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Case No. 1074422

          Panel consists of Justices Higley, Brown, and Caughey.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Harvey Brown Justice.

         A vehicle driven by Charles Allen struck a vehicle driven by James Brevelle. Allen stipulated to liability, and a jury trial was held on a single measure of damages: diminution in value of Brevelle's 2014 Corvette. The jury determined that the diminution in value was zero dollars, which led to a take-nothing judgment. In two issues, Brevelle challenges the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the award of zero dollars in diminution damages.

         We affirm.

         Background

         James Brevelle owns a 2014 Corvette Stingray LT3. The production date for his vehicle was April 2014. It was less than six months old, and had only 1, 800 miles on it, when, in September 2014, Charles Allen's vehicle collided with it. Allen stipulated to liability, and the Corvette was repaired at a dealership at no cost to Brevelle. Brevelle pursued a claim against Allen for the diminution in value of the Corvette, contending that the vehicle was worth less because it had been in an accident.

         The parties held a one-day jury trial with just two witnesses: Brevelle (the plaintiff and owner of the Corvette) and Christopher Stillwell (the defense expert witness). Brevelle testified that he was told by a Mac Haik dealership representative that he should be prepared to "take about a $10, 000 hit" on his trade-in when he sells it due to the vehicle's accident history. This statement confirmed Brevelle's understanding that vehicles with accident histories have less of a market value than vehicles without accident histories.

         Brevelle's vehicle appraisal was admitted into evidence. It states the actual cash value of the vehicle just before the wreck was $60, 000. And the loss of value as a result of the accident (which does not include repair costs) is $9, 556, representing 16 per cent of the pre-accident actual cash value. Thus, Brevelle presented evidence of diminution-in-value damages equaling or nearly equaling $10, 000.

         Photographs of the Corvette were attached to Brevelle's appraisal. The jury was not told when the pictures were taken, though the appraisal document indicates that the appraiser personally observed the vehicle as part of his appraisal. The photographs do not reveal any aesthetic irregularity in the vehicle.

         Stillwell testified that he is a "physical damage specialist" with a decade of experience appraising vehicles. He has reviewed more than 2, 500 vehicle diminution files and testified more than 15 times as an expert. Stilwell agreed that Brevelle's Corvette lost value because of the accident.

         Stillwell described Brevelle's Corvette as a "high end sports car." He testified that the vehicle suffered a "moderate" level of damage in the accident. Specifically, there was damage to the fender apron that the vehicle's fender attaches to as well as the front bumper, lower grill area, hood, and left fender. The vehicle's frame, however, was not damaged, according to Stillwell's assessment. Stillwell testified that an average purchaser would consider cosmetic damage and damage to structural reinforcement pieces to be less significant than frame damage and, as a result, would assign less loss-of-value to a vehicle without frame damage.

         Stillwell reviewed three additional photographs of the Corvette, which were admitted into evidence. According to Stillwell, these three pictures confirmed that Brevelle's Corvette did not have frame damage but, instead, had only structural reinforcement damage, which the parties agreed had been repaired.

         Stillwell also discussed a damage-assessment-calculation form, which was admitted into evidence. Stillwell testified that the maximum loss of value for a wrecked vehicle, if it has been properly repaired, has clear title, and is sold by a willing seller and purchased by a willing buyer, is 10 per cent of the actual cash value before the accident. The calculation form assists in estimating the loss more precisely, given various factors, including the mileage, the level of damage, and whether there was prior damage. Using the form, Stillwell testified that his estimation of the loss in value-the diminution in value-of the Corvette due ...


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