December 4, 2018
Petition for Review from the Court of Appeals for the Fourth
District of Texas
Justice Busby did not participate in the decision.
Jeffrey V. Brown Justice.
case we address when, if ever, a trial court may sanction a
party who fails to admit negligence during discovery but
concedes it at trial. Here, the plaintiff served the
defendant with a spate of requests for admissions at the
outset of the litigation. In those requests, the plaintiff
essentially asked the defendant to concede his negligence in
every possible respect and confess he was the sole cause of
the accident at issue. The defendant predictably denied those
requests. The case proceeded to trial, at which time the
defendant made the strategic decision to concede ordinary
negligence but contest the plaintiff's gross-negligence
claim. After trial, the plaintiff asked the trial court to
award sanctions in the form of reasonable expenses and
attorney's fees incurred in proving up the negligence
issues that the defendant ultimately conceded. The trial
court awarded sanctions and the court of appeals affirmed. We
reverse and render judgment that the trial court abused its
discretion in awarding sanctions.
separate issue, we hold that no evidence supports the
jury's finding that the defendant was grossly negligent.
Because the court of appeals held otherwise, we reverse and
render judgment that the plaintiff take nothing on her
Medina drove to his high school on a Sunday to feed livestock
in conjunction with the school's agricultural program.
The record reflects that students customarily visited the
school over the weekend to care for the animals. Surveillance
video taken at the time of the accident shows several people
coming and going from campus. Jennifer Zuniga drove her
daughter to the school for the same reason and went for a jog
while her daughter tended to her responsibilities.
turned off a public street and onto an entrance drive to the
school's parking lot, where he stopped to talk to two
students through his passenger window. Another driver pulled
in behind Medina, whose truck blocked the drive, and honked
at him. Medina briefly drove his truck in reverse before
proceeding forward into the parking lot. Evidence adduced at
trial suggested Medina was attempting to "mess
with" the other driver-a friend-by creeping his truck
toward her in reverse before driving forward.
proceeded forward through the horseshoe-shaped drive, which
provided access to a short strip of parking spaces before
emptying back onto the same public street by which Medina had
arrived. Zuniga's accident reconstructionist testified
that Medina accelerated rapidly through the parking lot,
reaching a top speed of 24 miles per hour. To reach that
speed in such a short distance, the reconstructionist
testified, Medina must have pressed the accelerator almost to
decreased his speed-Zuniga's reconstructionist suggested
19 miles per hour-as he approached the exit and prepared to
turn right onto the public street. At the time, Zuniga was
crossing the exit driveway headed toward the sidewalk. There
was no stop sign posted at the exit and Medina admitted he
did not stop. Medina testified he looked left before exiting
but conceded he failed to look right. He saw Zuniga only
momentarily before he struck her as he pulled onto the
street. The evidence showed that Medina attempted to brake
immediately before impact. Photographs taken of the accident
scene showed that the right-rear wheel of Medina's truck
came to rest on the border between the driveway and sidewalk.
Zuniga's expert testified that Medina likely drove on the
sidewalk as he turned out of the parking lot.
sued Medina for negligence and gross negligence, and his
parents for negligent entrustment. During discovery, Zuniga
served Medina with requests for admissions pursuant to Rule
198. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 198.1 ("A party may
serve on another party . . . written requests that the other
party admit the truth of any matter within the scope of
discovery, including statements of opinion or of fact or of
the application of law to fact, or the genuineness of any
documents served with the request or otherwise made available
for inspection and copying."). The requests at issue in
this case, all of which Medina denied, are reproduced below:
Do you admit or deny that you did not operate the vehicle
under proper control at the time of the incident made the
basis of this lawsuit?
Do you admit or deny that the manner of operation of the
vehicle you were driving at the time of the accident made the
basis of this lawsuit increased the hazard to the Plaintiff
and others upon the roadway?
Do you admit or deny that there was no contributory
negligence on the part of the Plaintiff in this collision?
Do you admit or deny the Plaintiff's allegation that your
negligence was the proximate cause of the occurrence in
Do you admit or deny that you were incompetent and unfit to
safely operate a motor vehicle on the public streets,
highways and/or public facilities at the time of the accident
made the basis of this lawsuit?
Do you admit or deny that you knew, or in the exercise of
ordinary care, should have known, that you were an
incompetent and unfit driver and would create an unreasonable
risk of danger to persons and property on the public streets
and highways of San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas at the time
of the accident made the subject of this lawsuit?
Do you admit or deny that you were operating your vehicle at
a greater rate of speed than was reasonable at the time of