Appeal from the 385th District Court Midland County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. CV 51, 197.
consists of: Bailey, C.J., Stretcher, J., and Wright, S.C.J.
appeal challenges a jury verdict awarding Appellants damages
for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident.
Appellants were occupants of a vehicle rear-ended by a pickup
driven and owned by Appellees. Following the accident,
Appellants brought suit against Appellees seeking damages for
past and future pain, suffering and mental anguish, loss of
wages and earning capacity, physical impairment, and medical
care. The jury found in favor of Appellants and awarded
Appellant Anna Maria Martinez $5, 000 for past pain and
mental anguish, $10, 000 for loss of earning capacity, and
$146, 425.41 for past medical expenses. The jury awarded
Appellant Luis Martinez $5, 034 for past medical expenses.
However, in three issues, Appellants challenge the factual
sufficiency of the jury's verdict, arguing that the award
is unreasonably low given Appellants' severe injuries.
Because we hold that the evidence supporting the jury's
award of damages is not so contrary to the overwhelming
weight of the evidence as to make the judgment clearly wrong
and manifestly unjust, we affirm the trial court's
were occupants in a vehicle that was rear-ended by a pickup
driven by Appellee Jacob Eric Lemense. Lemense was an
employee of Strong Tower Electric, a company owned by
Appellee Jared Million. Following the accident, Appellants
sued Lemense and Million (individually and d/b/a Strong Tower
Electric) for, among other things, negligence and gross
negligence and sought damages for injuries allegedly
sustained during the accident.
Martinez testified at trial. Luis testified that, while
stopped at a stoplight, he heard a "crashing sound"
and felt an impact from behind, which pushed his pickup
forward. After confirming that neither he nor Anna had any
visible injuries, Luis examined the condition of the
vehicles. Luis recognized the driver of the other pickup-Luis
had noticed him at an earlier stoplight when he appeared to
be looking down at his phone. Luis noted that Appellees'
pickup was leaking fluid and that the front end was crumpled
in. However, Luis's pickup, which was a company pickup,
only had minor visible damage with its reinforced steel
bumper bent. Because neither Luis nor Anna was complaining
about pain at the time, they declined ambulance treatment,
and Luis drove Anna home and then continued to work to report
that the pickup had been in an accident.
further testified that, despite not feeling pain initially,
Anna complained to Luis about back pain later that day, and
he drove her to the emergency room. Luis explained how
Anna's pain grew worse and prevented her from taking part
in her normal activities and routines despite numerous
attempts at therapy and treatment over the next few months.
Luis testified that eventually, after two surgeries,
Anna's condition improved somewhat but that she was still
physically unable to do many of the activities and chores she
did before the accident. Although Luis testified that Anna
did not return to work until five or six months after the
accident, Luis clarified on cross-examination that Anna only
missed work to attend her numerous doctors' appointments.
Luis testified that, although he too did not initially feel
pain after the accident, he felt pain the following morning.
Although, at first, Luis did not believe that the pain was
bad enough to see a doctor, Luis eventually sought
chiropractic therapy. The pain improved after a few months of
treatment; however, Luis testified that he still feels a
"little bit of pain."
Maria Martinez also testified at trial. Anna testified that
their vehicle was hit fast and hard and estimated that the
impact moved their vehicle twenty feet. Like Luis, Anna
testified that she had noticed Lemense texting shortly before
the accident. Anna explained that, immediately after the
accident, she was in shock but declined to go to the
hospital; Anna did not feel pain until later that day.
testified that she initially complained about pain in her
neck, arm, and lower back. After first receiving treatment
from multiple specialists, Anna was eventually referred to
Dr. Benjamin Cunningham, an orthopedic surgeon. Because
multiple therapies failed to relieve her pain, Dr. Cunningham
ultimately determined that Anna required surgery. Anna
testified that she ultimately underwent two back surgeries.
Anna also testified that, despite her pain, she continued to
work as a housekeeper for a hotel throughout the time she was
receiving therapy and undergoing her surgeries. Anna
explained that, despite being temporarily on a walker, she
actually worked more hours after the accident than she did
before. However, both Anna and a coworker, Katherine Warren,
testified that Anna's work suffered negatively after the
crash. Additionally, although Anna admitted that her
condition had improved since the second surgery, Anna
testified that she is now unable to do the housekeeping work
she did before the accident, is currently out of work, and is
often affected by the weather.
Anna also acknowledged that, some years prior to the
accident, she had fallen down some stairs and injured her
back. However, Anna insisted that therapy and one injection
had remedied the injuries stemming from the fall. Although
Appellees offered health records on cross-examination
suggesting that Anna had previously been injured in another
car accident, Anna denied that she had ever been injured in a
previous car accident or had suffered previous back pain.
Likewise, although medical reports indicated that Anna
informed Dr. Cunningham that she had been hit by a vehicle
traveling at sixty miles per hour, Anna denied that she had
made such a statement.
Cunningham's video deposition testimony was also
presented at trial. Dr. Cunningham testified that he treated
both Luis and Anna after the accident. Dr. Cunningham
explained that both Anna and Luis had back pain stemming from
the accident but that Luis's pain, unlike Anna's,
subsided after a few months. Regarding Anna, Dr. Cunningham
testified that, due to Anna's persistent pain, he
recommended surgery. Although the first surgery initially
appeared successful, Anna still complained of pain following
the surgery. As a result, Dr. Cunningham ordered an MRI and
identified Anna's SI joint (sacroiliac joint) as a
possible source of her pain. Dr. Cunningham explained that,
because a surgery to fuse the SI joint is incredibly
dangerous, he instructed Anna to pursue multiple alternative
therapies to try to relieve the pain following the first
surgery. However, after the alternative therapies failed to
relieve Anna's pain, he determined that a second surgery
to perform a fusion of Anna's SI joint was necessary.
Cunningham further explained that back pain can result from
even minor collisions and that it is impossible to tell when
back pain started for a patient other than by what a patient
tells you. Although Dr. Cunningham was not aware that Anna
had previously received epidural steroid injections for back
pain, Dr. Cunningham testified that (1) Anna's injuries,
pain, and treatments were the result of this specific crash;
(2) all procedures were necessary to ...