Appeal from the 11th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-38471
consists of Justices Wise, Jewell, and Poissant.
Margaret "Meg" Poissant Justice
a personal injury case arising from an automobile accident.
On appeal, Eboni Ivory Hills challenges the trial court's
judgment in favor of appellees Carlos Donis, Calixto Donis,
Victor Matamoros, and Saira Castellanos, both in her
individual capacity and as next friend of S.D., a
minor (collectively the "Donis
Parties"). Hills asserts the Donis Parties failed to
present legally and factually sufficient evidence to support
their negligence claims. Because we conclude expert medical
testimony was required to establish the Donis Parties'
diagnosed injuries were caused by the automobile accident,
and because the Donis Parties presented no such evidence, we
reverse and render.
6, 2014, Carlos Donis was driving his car south on I-45, in
Houston, Texas, around 4:00 p.m. It was raining and the
freeway was congested with traffic. Calixto Donis, Victor
Matamoros, Saira Castellanos, and S.D. were passengers in
Carlos's car. Richard Morehouse was driving his vehicle
behind Carlos's vehicle. There was standing water on the
highway, which caused Carlos to slow down or stop.
was entering I-45 behind a vehicle that blocked her view of
Carlos's and Morehouse's vehicles. According to her
testimony, a vehicle in front of Hills "jolt[ed] into
traffic," and Hills applied her brakes, but did not have
enough time to stop before hitting the back-right-side of
Morehouse's car, and then ricocheting into the back of
car was totaled. Morehouse's vehicle sustained
substantial damage, but there was minimal damage to the rear
of Carlos's vehicle. No airbags deployed in any of the
the accident, none of the parties involved requested or left
in an ambulance. No one went to the emergency room. No one
was bleeding, had bruises, scrapes, cuts, or broken bones.
Carlos drove his car home with all passengers.
7, 2016, the Donis Parties filed this negligence suit,
seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical
expenses, loss of earnings, and loss of enjoyment of life. On
May 17, 2018, the case was called to trial. The parties
waived their right to a jury trial. The trial court heard
testimony from several witnesses, including Hills, Morehouse,
and all the Donis Parties.
testified the impact jolted him around in the car and he felt
immediate head and neck pain. He did not follow-up with any
healthcare provider because the pain went away after about a
day or two. He stated he did not have any long-term injuries.
Donis Parties maintain that the accident caused substantial
soft tissue injuries to each occupant of the vehicle. Each of
the Donis Parties testified at trial.
testified that he suffered pain because of the accident,
stating "It's difficult for me to -to move around to
the right or to the left." Medical bills admitted into
evidence in the amount of $48, 906.00 included diagnoses of
cervical radiculitis, lumbar radiculitis, thoracalgia,
cervical intervertebral disc ("IVD") displacement
without myelopathy, lumbar IVD displacement without
myelopathy, cervical discogenic pain, lumbar discogenic pain,
disc herniation, cervical disc disorder, and lumbar disc
testified he was injured in the accident in his lower back
and part of his neck. Medical bills admitted into evidence in
the amount of $48, 676.00 included diagnoses of cervical
radiculitis, lumbar radiculitis, thoracalgia, cervical IVD
displacement without myelopathy, lumbar IVD displacement
without myelopathy, thoracic IVD displacement without
myelopathy, cervical ...