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Geico County Mutual Insurance Co. v. Bogale

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

July 3, 2019

GEICO COUNTY MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, Appellant
v.
TIYA BOGALE, Appellee

          Submitted: June 21, 2019

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Travis County, Texas Trial Court No. C-1-CV-17-009428

          Before Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          SCOTT E. STEVENS JUSTICE

         Thuong Thi Nguyen and Tiya Bogale were involved in an automobile collision in an Austin, Texas, parking lot.[1] After Nguyen's damages were compensated by her insurance company, GEICO County Mutual Insurance, GEICO filed a subrogation suit alleging that Bogale's negligence caused the collision. Since a bench trial determined otherwise, GEICO appeals from the take-nothing judgment entered in favor of Bogle. Because we overrule GEICO's legal and factual sufficiency arguments, we affirm the trial court's judgment.

         I. Standard of Review

         "In an appeal from a judgment rendered after a bench trial, the trial court's findings of fact have the same weight as a jury's verdict, and we review the factual sufficiency of the evidence to support them as we would review a jury's findings." MJAH Holdings, LLC v. Henson, No. 03-18-00012-CV, 2019 WL 1413282, at *4 (Tex. App.-Austin Mar. 29, 2019, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing Catalina v. Blasdel, 881 S.W.2d 295, 297 (Tex. 1994)); see Murray v. Grayum, No. 03-10-00165-CV, 2011 WL 2533796, at *2 (Tex. App.-Austin June 24, 2011, pet. denied) (mem. op.) (citing Ortiz v. Jones, 917 S.W.2d 770, 772 (Tex. 1996) (per curiam)).

         "In a bench trial where no findings of fact or conclusions of law are requested by the parties or filed by the trial court, the judgment implies all findings of fact necessary to support it." Johnson v. Oliver, 250 S.W.3d 182, 186 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2008, no pet.); see Moncrief Oil Int'l, Inc. v. OAO Gazprom, 414 S.W.3d 142, 150 (Tex. 2013); Worford v. Stamper, 801 S.W.2d 108, 109 (Tex. 1990) (per curiam). "If a reporter's record is filed, an appellant may challenge the legal and factual sufficiency of the trial court's implied findings." Hampden Corp., 2014 WL 2921655, at *6; see Grayum, 2011 WL 2533796, at *2. The trial court, as the finder of fact, "is the sole judge of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony, and we will not disturb the court's resolution of evidentiary conflicts that turn on credibility determinations or the weight of the evidence." Grayum, 2011 WL 2533796, at *2 (citing McGalliard v. Kuhlmann, 722 S.W.2d 694, 696 (Tex. 1986)).

         As the Austin Court of Appeals explained in Grayum,

We will sustain a challenge to legal sufficiency if there is a complete absence of evidence of an essential fact, the trial court was barred by rules of law or evidence from giving weight to the only evidence proving an essential fact, no more than a scintilla of evidence was offered to prove an essential fact, or the evidence conclusively establishes the opposite of the essential fact.

Id. (citing City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 810 (Tex. 2005)). "We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the trial court's determination, crediting favorable evidence if a reasonable fact[-]finder could have done so and disregarding contrary evidence unless a reasonable fact[-]finder could not." Id. (citing Wilson, 168 S.W.3d at 807).

         "In reviewing a factual-sufficiency challenge, we examine the entire record and consider and weigh all the evidence, both in support of and contrary to the challenged finding." Henson, 2019 WL 1413282, at *4. "When, as here, a party attacks the factual sufficiency of the evidence supporting an adverse finding on an issue on which it has the burden of proof, it must demonstrate on appeal that the adverse finding is against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence." Id. "[W]e review all the evidence and set aside the judgment only if it is so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence that it is clearly wrong and unjust." Grayum, 2011 WL 2533796, at *2 (citing Cain v. Bain, 709 S.W.2d 175, 176 (Tex. 1986) (per curiam)); see Mattingly v. Swisher Int'l, Inc., No. 03-17-00510-CV, 2018 WL 454787, at *3 (Tex. App-Austin Jan. 11, 2018, pet. denied).

         II. The Evidence at Trial

         At trial, GEICO introduced a copy of the police report, which listed both Nguyen and Bogale at fault. The report stated Nguyen and Bogale were driving in opposite directions in a parking lot and "attempted to turn into the same parking [a]isle" when they collided ...


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