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Villa v. Martinez

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

May 16, 2019

ANA VILLA, Appellant,
v.
FELICIA MARTINEZ, Appellee.

          On appeal from the 103rd District Court of Cameron County, Texas.

          Before Justices Benavides, Longoria, and Hinojosa.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORA L. LONGORIA, JUSTICE.

         Appellant Ana Villa sued appellee Felicia Martinez for injuries she sustained in a car collision. A jury found both Villa and Martinez 50% at fault for the car accident; however, the jury awarded no damages to Villa. By one issue, Villa argues that the trial court erred by signing a take-nothing judgment on her claims when she presented uncontroverted evidence of her damages. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Villa sued Martinez for negligence after her vehicle collided with Martinez's vehicle at an intersection in June of 2009. The case proceeded to jury trial, at which the following evidence was adduced.

         Villa testified that she immediately felt pain in her neck and that she started experiencing a severe headache. She further testified that she could not move her head and went into an asthmatic attack because she could not move to find her inhaler. Villa also testified that she saw a chiropractor because her hands and feet were numb after the accident and because she felt a burning sensation in her back. Villa was attending dental assistant school before the accident. But she testified that after the accident, she had to drop out of the school because she was no longer able to handle the dental instruments due to the tingling in her hands.

         Villa's medical expert Dr. Juan Caquias opined that the accident caused Villa to have a herniated center disc in her vertebrae because there were several tiny bulges along Villa's spine. He further opined that the medical treatment that she received in the amount of $16, 567 was necessary and reasonable to treat her injuries. According to Martinez's opening statement, her trial strategy involved conceding that Villa was injured. But Martinez insisted that the accident was Villa's fault and "[w]e don't think she was injured as badly as perhaps [Villa's counsel] would like you to be believe." Thus, Martinez asserted that Villa should not recover any damages because her injuries were minor and the accident was Villa's fault.

         The jury found that both Martinez and Villa were 50% at fault for the collision and awarded Villa zero damages. Villa moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Martinez moved for judgment on the verdict. The trial court granted Martinez's motion and entered a take-nothing judgment for Villa. This appeal followed.

         II. Factual Sufficiency of Zero Damages

         On appeal, Villa argues that the trial court erred by entering a take-nothing judgment because the facts of her injuries were uncontroverted at trial. We construe this argument as a challenge to the factual sufficiency of the evidence.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         "In reviewing a factual-sufficiency challenge to a jury finding on an issue on which the appellant had the burden of proof, the appellant must show that the adverse finding is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence." Editorial Caballero, S.A. de C.V. v. Playboy Enterprises, Inc., 359 S.W.3d 318, 329 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2012, pet. denied) (citing Dow Chem. Co. v. Francis, 46 S.W.3d 237, 242 (Tex. 2001)). Appellate courts must weigh all the evidence, including evidence that supports the judgment and evidence that undermines the judgment. See Editorial Caballero, 359 S.W.3d at 329. The jury is the "sole judge" of the credibility of the witnesses; the jury may freely choose to believe one witness over another. See id. We will only set aside the verdict if the evidence is so weak or if the judgment is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to make the verdict "clearly wrong and unjust." Dow, 46 S.W.3d at 242; see Blevins v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 02-17-00276-CV, 2018 WL 5993445, at *8 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth Nov. 15, 2018, no pet. h.) ("The amount of evidence needed to show that factually sufficient evidence supports a jury finding is 'far less' than the amount needed to conclude that a finding is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust.").

         Whether a finding of zero damages is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence can be influenced ...


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