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At a Glance:
Title:
Bowler v. Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County
Date:
May 3, 2007
Citation:
01-06-00553-CV
Status:
Unpublished Opinion

Bowler v. Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County

Court of Appeals of Texas,

Houston (1st Dist.).

Michael David BOWLER, Appellant

v.

METROPOLITAN TRANSIT AUTHORITY OF HARRIS COUNTY, Texas, Appellee.

No. 01-06-00553-CV.

|

May 3, 2007.

On Appeal from the 127th District Court, Harris County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No.2005-45221.

Attorneys & Firms

Jason Andrew Powers, for Michael David Bowler.

Alva I. Trevino, for Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas.

Panel consists of Justices HIGLEY.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

LAURA CARTER HIGLEY, Justice.

*1 In this no answer-default judgment case, the trial court awarded appellee, Metropolitan Transit Authority Of Harris County, Texas (“Metro”), $49,108.85 in damages, plus pre-judgment interest and costs, against appellant, Michael David Bowler. On appeal, Bowler contends that Metro presented legally insufficient evidence to support the damages awarded.1

We affirm.

Background

Metro filed suit against Bowler. Metro alleged that, while he was driving, Bowler struck a bus driven by Metro employee, Natalie Haughton. Metro claimed that, as a result of Bowler’s negligence, Haughton “suffered serious injuries and suffered other damages, ... including substantial medical expenses and loss of income.” Metro alleged that, as a result of the accident, it paid workers’ compensation benefits to Haughton. Metro asserted that, by statute, it was subrogated to the rights of Haughton for any benefits it had paid to her. On that basis, Metro claimed that Bowler was “responsible for [Metro’s] losses in the form of its payment of benefits for or to [Haughton].”

After Bowler did not answer the suit, Metro filed a motion for default judgment. Metro attached two affidavits, each signed by its custodian of records, E. Gail Mitchell, who stated in each affidavit that she was “personally acquainted with the facts.” Mitchell testified that Metro had paid $15,813.24 in medical bills on behalf of Haughton “resulting from the collision made the basis of this lawsuit” and $34,922.74 in lost wages to Haughton “as a result of injuries she sustained in the collision made the basis of this lawsuit.” Metro also offered its authenticated business records itemizing the medical expenses and lost income benefits it had paid. The trial court granted the motion and signed an interlocutory default judgment. The court later held a damages hearing at which Metro submitted further evidence supporting the damages it sought. Metro offered 16 affidavits from each of the medical providers that had supplied services to Haughton. The affiant in each affidavit testified that the medical services provided to Haughton were reasonable and necessary. Each affidavit also reflected the sum charged by that provider for the medical services it supplied to Haughton. Metro also offered another authenticated Metro business record, a printout of a computer screen, showing the sums that Metro had paid related to the accident.

At the end of the hearing, the trial court signed a “Final Judgment” ordering that Metro recover $49,108.85 in damages and $7,966.38 in pre-judgment interest from Bowler.

Legal Sufficiency Challenge

On appeal, Bowler asserts that Metro’s evidence was legally insufficient to support the trial court’s award of damages.

A. Standard of Review and General Principles Governing Default Judgments

When a default judgment on an unliquidated claim is entered, all factual allegations set forth in the petition are deemed admitted except for the amount of damages. Morgan v. Compugraphic Corp., 675 S.W.2d 729, 732 (Tex.1984). “Proving that the event sued upon caused the plaintiff’s alleged injuries is part and parcel of proving the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled.” Id.

*2 If no findings of fact or conclusions of law are filed or requested in a bench trial, we will assume that the trial court made all findings necessary to support its judgment, but when a reporter’s record is made part of the record, these implied findings may be challenged for factual or legal sufficiency. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 810 (Tex.2005).

B. Medical Expenses

Bowler first contends that Metro presented legally insufficient evidence to show a causal link between the accident underlying the suit and the medical expenses claimed by Metro. Specifically, Bowler bases this challenge on the following: (1) Metro did not show that Haughton was in good health before the accident; (2) Metro offered no medical expert testimony to support causation; and (3) the affidavits offered to support the medical expenses do not address the issue of causation. We disagree with each of Bowler’s specific contentions.

In Jackson v. Gutierrez, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals addressed, in the context of a no-answer default judgment, whether a causal nexus can be established between the accident and the damages without evidence that the plaintiff was in good health prior to the accident. 77 S.W.3d 898, 902 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, no pet.). There, the plaintiff testified that her damages had all occurred “as a result of the accident.” Id. The Jackson court held that such testimony was alone sufficient to show a causal nexus without showing proof of the plaintiff’s good health prior to the accident. See id. Similarly, in this case, Metro presented affidavit testimony that Metro paid, on behalf of Haughton, $15,813.24 in medical bills “resulting from the collision made the basis of the lawsuit.” Thus, no proof of Haughton’s prior good health was required. See id.

Bowler also contends that Metro was required to submit medical expert testimony to support causation. In Morgan, a default judgment case, the Supreme Court of Texas wrote, “Lay testimony is adequate to prove causation in those cases in which general experience and common sense will enable a layman to determine, with reasonable probability, the causal relationship between the event and the condition.” Byrd v. Delasancha, 195 S.W.3d 834, 839 (Tex. App .-Dallas 2006, no pet.). Here, the record does not reveal or suggest more than one cause of Haughton’s injuries; rather, the accident is the only identified cause. Thus, medical expert testimony was not required to show a causal nexus in this case. See id.

*3 Bowler also contends that the affidavits offered by Metro did not address causation. As mentioned, Mitchell’s affidavit expressly stated that Metro paid, on behalf of Haughton, $15,813.24 in medical bills “resulting from the collision made the basis of the lawsuit.” Other courts have held, in the context of no-answer default judgments, that testimony indicating that a plaintiff’s damages resulted from the event made the basis of the suit was alone legally sufficient evidence to establish a causal link. See Transport Concepts, Inc. v. Reeves, 748 S.W.2d 302, 305 (Tex.App.-Dallas 1988, no writ) (same). Likewise, we conclude that Mitchell’s “resulting from” testimony is legally sufficient evidence to show a causal nexus between the accident underlying the suit and the medical expenses paid by Metro on behalf of Haughton.

C. Lost Wages

Bowler also contends that Metro presented legally insufficient evidence to show a causal nexus between the accident and Haughton’s lost wages paid by Metro. Metro offered an affidavit signed by Mitchell in which Mitchell testified that “Metro paid $34,922.74 in lost wages (temporary income benefits) to employee Natalie Haughton incurred as a result of injuries she sustained in the collision made the basis of this lawsuit for time missed from September 8, 2003 to October 17, 2005.” We conclude that this testimony was sufficient to show a causal nexus between the accident and Haughton’s lost wages. See Jackson, 77 S.W.3d at 902 (holding that testimony that plaintiff “lost wages” “as a result of the accident” was sufficient to satisfy causal nexus requirement).

Bowler also challenges Metro’s proof underlying the damages regarding lost wages. Bowler asserts that “the correct measure of damages in a personal injury case is loss of earning capacity and not lost wages.” We observe that other courts have considered lost wages to be evidence of loss of earning capacity. See Vela, 762 S.W.2d at 320.

Bowler also contends that “there must be some proof that the injured party had some capacity to earn money before the injury and the injury resulted in some impairment to the injured party’s ability to work.” (Emphasis added.) Here, the evidence submitted to the trial court showed that, (1) on the date of the accident, July 16, 2003, Haughton was a Metro employee, who was operating a bus; (2) Metro paid workers’ compensation medical benefits to Haughton as a result of the accident; (3) Metro paid lost wages “to employee Haughton incurred as a result of injuries she sustained in the collision made the basis of the lawsuit for the time missed from September 8, 2004 to October 17, 2005.” We conclude that the evidence submitted to the trial court was legally sufficient to show that Haughton had “some capacity to earn money before the injury and that the injury resulted in some impairment to [her] ability to work.”

*4 Lastly, Bowler contends that Metro’s supporting business records show that “not all of [Metro’s] payments were for lost wages.” Bowler points out that, for example, the business records reflect that Metro paid an attorney to represent Haughton in the workers’ compensation proceeding and asserts that such attorney’s fees are not recoverable from Bowler. Here, the record reflects that Metro sought to recover only the lost wage benefits paid to Haughton and no other sums paid, though other sums may be reflected in its business records. That is, Metro made clear that it was seeking only “$34,922.74 in lost wages (temporary income benefits)” paid to Haughton. Metro sought no other sums, including the attorney’s fees itemized in its business records.

We overrule Bowler’s sole issue.

Conclusion

We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Footnotes

1

Bowler filed this as a restricted appeal. However, on July 3, 2006, this Court granted Bowler’s motion to extend time to file his notice of appeal. Therefore, we treat this as an ordinary appeal, rather than a restricted appeal. For this reason, we do not review Bowler’s no-evidence complaint in terms of “error on the face of record,” as we do in restricted appeals. Thus, to the extent that Bowler raised “error on the face of the record” as a separate issue, it is overruled as moot.

End of Document
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