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At a Glance:
Title:
Texas Employers Ins. Ass'n v. Alcantara
Date:
January 24, 1989
Citation:
764 S.W.2d 865
Status:
Published Opinion

Texas Employers Ins. Ass'n v. Alcantara

Court of Appeals of Texas,

Texarkana.

TEXAS EMPLOYERS INSURANCE ASSOCIATION, Appellant,

v.

David ALCANTARA, Appellee.

No. 9639.

|

Jan. 24, 1989.

Attorneys & Firms

*866 Johnny R. McCollum, Sharp, Ward, Price & Searcy, Longview, for appellant.

Jim Ammerman II, Marshall, for appellee.

Opinion

BLEIL, Justice.

Texas Employers Insurance Association appeals a judgment setting aside its workers’ compensation claim settlement agreement with David Alcantara. Texas Employers contends that no evidence or insufficient evidence exists to support certain jury findings, and that the trial court erred in its submission of the questions to the jury and in failing to define a term. We find no error and affirm.

Alcantara injured his back in July of 1985 while employed as a forklift operator at Henderson Clay Products. Alcantara visited John G. Adams, Henderson Clay Products’ company medical doctor, who diagnosed Alcantara as suffering from acute back strain, advised him to restrict his lifting, and prescribed medication. Adams later referred Alcantara to Robert E. Holladay, a medical doctor and orthopedic surgeon. Tests by Holladay indicated no abnormality in Alcantara’s spine. Holladay diagnosed Alcantara’s injury as minor muscle strain, prescribed pain pills, and recommended that he return to work. Neither Adams nor Holladay advised Alcantara of the possibility that back surgery would be required.

Believing that he suffered only muscle strain, Alcantara signed a settlement agreement with Texas Employers on December 4, 1985, providing him with $3,500.00 plus one year of future medical expenses. Alcantara’s back pain became worse. On August 20, 1986, Holladay referred him to a more conveniently located medical doctor, Douglas E. Duncan, who diagnosed Alcantara as suffering from a percutaneous diskectomy at L4–L5, a removal of a portion of the disk, on October 20, 1986. Duncan’s reports of Alcantara’s subsequent condition indicate that the surgery substantially reduced his back pain. Alcantara sued to set aside the settlement agreement, the jury found in Alcantara’s favor, and the trial court entered a judgment on the verdict.

*867 On appeal, Texas Employers complains that no evidence exists to support the submission of a question to the jury regarding whether Holladay was mistaken in his representation to Alcantara. Submission of questions to the jury is a matter within the discretion of the trial court. Tex.R.Civ.P. 278. We conclude that the trial court properly submitted the question because: 1) whether Holladay misrepresented Alcantara’s injury to him controls the disposition of the case; 2) the question of Holladay’s misrepresentation is raised by the pleadings and the evidence; and 3) whether a misrepresentation exists was disputed and therefore required the jury’s determination.

Next, Texas Employers contends that the trial court erred in submitting a question to the jury regarding the value of Alcantara’s injury and further erred in failing to submit a question regarding whether Alcantara had a meritorious claim to more compensation than was provided by the settlement agreement. The trial court is required to submit the controlling questions raised by the pleadings and the evidence, and once the controlling questions have been submitted, does not err in refusing to submit other questions and various shades of the same question. Texas Employers’ Ins. Ass’n v. Remy, 752 S.W.2d 617, 620 (Tex.App.—Fort Worth 1988, no writ). In asking whether the value of Alcantara’s injury was greater than the value agreed to in December 1985, the trial court fairly presented the controlling question to the jury. There was no requirement that the trial court further ask whether Alcantara’s claim was worth more than the amount of compensation agreed to.

In addition, Texas Employers contends that the trial court erred in failing to define the term “value” used in a jury question. The trial court has considerable discretion in deciding what instructions are necessary and proper, although it must give definitions of legal and other technical terms. Tex.R.Civ.P. 278 provides that the trial court’s failure to submit a definition is not a ground for reversal of the judgment unless a substantially correct definition was requested in writing and tendered by the party complaining of the judgment. Although Texas Employers submitted a definition of the term “compensation,” it failed to submit a definition of value. By failing to submit a substantially *868 correct definition of value, Texas Employers waived any error on appeal.

Next, Texas Employers complains that no evidence or insufficient evidence exists to support the jury’s findings that Adams and Holladay mistakenly represented Alcantara’s injury to him. When reviewing a judgment on a no evidence ground, we consider the evidence and inferences tending to support the trial court’s judgment and disregard all evidence and inferences to the contrary. Alford, Meroney & Co. v. Rowe, 619 S.W.2d 210, 213 (Tex.Civ.App.—Amarillo 1981, writ ref’d n.r.e.).

Applying these standards of review, we conclude that sufficient evidence exists to support the jury’s findings. Although no witness testified to the accuracy or inaccuracy of Adams’s or Holladay’s diagnosis at the time that it was made, medical records show that Alcantara required a ruptured disk over time. Since no new injury was shown, and back surgery was subsequently required, it may be reasonably inferred that Alcantara suffered a disk injury resulting from the July 1985 event and that Adams and Holladay failed to correctly represent to Alcantara the full extent of his injury. Sufficient evidence exists to support the jury’s findings that both Adams and Holladay mistakenly represented Alcantara’s injury to him.

Texas Employers also maintains that no evidence or insufficient evidence exists to support the jury’s finding that the value of Alcantara’s injury exceeded the amount of the settlement agreement. The medical records show that he required surgery, while under the settlement agreement he was compensated for a muscle strain injury, not for a percutaneous diskectomy—support the jury’s finding.

The judgment of the trial court is affirmed.

End of Document
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