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Guerra v. ACE American Insurance Company as Successor of INA of Texas

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

June 6, 2019

GUADALUPE GUERRA JR., Appellant,
v.
ACE AMERICAN INSURANCE COMPANY AS SUCCESSOR OF INA OF TEXAS, Appellee.

          On appeal from the 319th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Longoria and Perkes

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DORI CONTRERAS, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         Appellant Guadalupe Guerra Jr., pro se, appeals the trial court's judgment setting aside a workers' compensation award pursuant to a suit filed by appellee, ACE American Insurance Company as successor of INA of Texas (ACE). By three issues, Guerra contends the trial court erred by (1) realigning the parties at trial, (2) issuing an erroneous jury charge, and (3) "allowing opposing counsel to make materially false statements to the jury." We affirm.

         I. Background

         Guerra was injured in 1990 while working for Reynolds Metals Company, which had workers' compensation insurance through ACE's predecessor. Attorneys for Guerra and ACE's predecessor entered into an "Agreed Final Judgment" on April 19, 1996, providing for a lump sum payment of $50, 000 to Guerra in exchange for his release of any claims regarding past medical expenses arising from the workplace injury. The "Agreed Final Judgment" also stated:

With regard to future medical expenses, [ACE] agrees to pay all reasonable and necessary medical expenses incurred as a result of treatment by Dr. Gilbert Meadows of San Antonio, Texas, only.
1. It is specifically agreed that [ACE] shall not be responsible for any medical treatment incurred in the future by any doctor or health care provider, other than Dr. Gilbert Meadows, unless said expenses were incurred during or as a result of surgery by Dr. Gilbert Meadows.
2. It is agreed, moreover, that [ACE] shall not be responsible for any expenses incurred by any other medical doctor, chiropractor, therapist, or health care provider except as a result of surgery as noted . . . above.

         An addendum to the "Agreed Final Judgment" stated:

The term "treatment" means lifetime medical and surgical care. Surgical care shall include all hospital, medical, therapeutic, and pharmaceutical treatment ordered by Dr. Gilbert Meadows, or his surgical assistants under the direction of Dr. Meadows, in order to allow a full recovery from the effects of surgery.

         Later in 1996, Guerra underwent spinal fusion surgery performed by Dr. Meadows in San Antonio. Dr. Meadows continued to provide treatment until 2003, when he advised Guerra that he was no longer accepting workers' compensation patients. Subsequently, Guerra received treatment from Abimael Perez, M.D., a physician located in Corpus Christi. ACE and its predecessors continued to cover that treatment until January 2013, when Dr. Perez also stopped accepting workers' compensation patients.

         At issue in this case is Guerra's request in 2015 to be reimbursed a total of $4, 062.75 for: (1) treatment by Misty Durbin, a chiropractor; (2) an orthopedic bed; (3) orthopedic shoes and socks; and (4) travel expenses. ACE refused the request, so Guerra filed a claim for compensation with the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation (the Division). On July 21, 2015, the Division issued a final award granting Guerra all of the benefits he requested. ACE then filed the instant suit in district court seeking judicial review of the award.

         In December of 2015, ACE filed a motion for no-evidence summary judgment arguing that "[t]here is no evidence of any attempt, much less a successful one, to set aside" the 1996 agreed judgment. The trial court denied the motion but granted permission to appeal under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 168. See Tex. R. Civ. P. 168. We concluded that the petition for permissive appeal failed to meet the jurisdictional requirements for such an appeal and dismissed it. ACE Am. Ins. Co. v. Guerra, No. 13-16-00628-CV, 2017 WL 929485, at *2 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg Mar. 9, 2017, no pet.) (mem. ...


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