Tuesday, April 7, 2015
Does rear-ending another vehicle amount to evidence of negligence per se?
TEXAS READ-ENDER LAW (Automobile collision & Negligence)
The mere occurrence of a rear-end collision is some evidence of negligence of the rear-ending driver but is not negligence as a matter of law. See Briones v. Sharkey, No. 04-11-00584-CV, 2012 WL 3776488, at *6 (Tex. App.-San Antonio Aug. 31, 2012, no pet.) (mem. op.); Hernandez v. Kaplan, No. 13-02-00091-CV, 2004 WL 170457, at *2 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi Jan. 29, 2004, no pet.) (mem. op.); Stone, 994 S.W.2d at 351; Neese v. Dietz, 845 S.W.2d 311, 314 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1992, writ denied); Renshaw v. Countess, 289 S.W.2d 621, 624 (Tex. Civ. App.-Fort Worth 1956, no writ). The plaintiff must prove specific acts of negligence on the part of the following driver as well as proximate cause. Neese, 845 S.W.2d at 314.
The issue of whether a rear-end collision raises an issue of negligence or establishes it as a matter of law depends on all the facts and circumstances of the particular case. Pearson v. DeBoer, Inc., 99 S.W.3d 273, 276 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2003, no pet.). Whether the plaintiff succeeds in proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence is within the jury's province to determine. Id.
SOURCE: FORT WORTH COURT OF APPEALS - No. 02-14-00248-CV - 3/5/2015
NEGLIGENCE IN THE CONTEXT OF DRIVING A MOTOR VEHICLE
To prove negligence, a plaintiff must establish duty, breach of that duty, and damages proximately caused by the breach. Kroger Co. v. Elwood, 197 S.W.3d 793, 794 (Tex. 2006) (per curiam). Negligence is not established as a matter of law merely because the defendant's vehicle rear-ended the vehicle driven by the plaintiff. See Gaskey v. One Source Sec. and Found, No. 14-07-00850, 2009 WL 7047692, at *1 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Jun. 18, 2009, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing Smith v. Cent. Freight Lines, Inc., 774 S.W.2d 411, 412 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 1989, writ denied)). Rather, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant's specific acts were negligent, and that they proximately caused the plaintiff's damages. See Cent. Freight, 774 S.W.2d at 412. Whether a rear-end collision resulted from negligence depends on all the facts and circumstances of the particular case. See Pearson v. DeBoer, 99 S.W.3d 273, 276 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi 2003, no pet.)
SOURCE; FOURTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS - 14-13-00638-CV - 2/10/2015
DRIVER FOUND NOT LIABLE FOR REAR-ENDER
In his legal-sufficiency challenge, Laday contends that Pedraza admitted he caused the collision and some injury to Laday, contesting only the extent of the injuries, and that all elements of negligence were established without contradiction. Laday also suggests that various statements by Pedraza qualified as judicial admissions, which compelled a jury finding that Pedraza was negligent as a matter of law.
A judicial admission is a formal waiver of proof that usually arises in the pleadings or a stipulation of the parties. See Gaskey, 2009 WL 7047692, at *2 (citing Mendoza v. Fid. & Guar. Ins. Underwriters, Inc., 606 S.W.2d 692, 694 (Tex. 1980)). An admission relieves the opposing party's burden to prove an admitted fact. Id. Further, to the extent Pedraza's testimony was contrary to his position, they were quasi-admissions. Id. While they may have constituted some evidence, they were not conclusive on Pedraza. Id. Only the jury determines the weight of the alleged admissions. Id.
Laday asserts Pedraza's testimony, including his admissions, established Pedraza was at fault and his actions caused the collision. Pedraza admitted on cross-examination that the collision occurred when he failed to control the speed of his vehicle under the conditions. However, Pedraza also testified that there was heavy traffic in the area, and cars were stopping and starting as they approached the light. Additionally, Pedraza testified the roads were wet, he was approximately 20 feet behind Laday's vehicle when he started braking, and he was traveling only 10-15 miles per hour (below the posted speed limit of 35) when he slid into Laday's bumper. Pedraza also testified Laday did not appear to be injured at the scene.
Laday testified the accident caused his vehicle to hit the car front of him, and the driver of that car exited his vehicle, but did not follow Laday and Pedraza to the gas station where Laday and Pedraza discussed the collision. Further, Laday testified he had been injured in a prior accident and had obtained disability license plates, which require the note of a physician to document the disability. Laday also told the jury that Pedraza said "I'm sorry" after the accident; however, in his deposition, Laday did not mention Pedraza's alleged statement.
Laday had the burden of proving Pedraza was negligent and that his negligence was a proximate cause of the occurrence. See Kroger, 197 S.W.3d at 794. When we view the totality of the testimony, we conclude that Laday has not demonstrated the evidence conclusively established all vital facts in support of the negligence finding. See Dow Chemical, 46 S.W.3d at 241; see also Briones v. Sharkey, No. 04-11-00584-CV, 2012 WL 3776488, at *6 (Tex. App.-San Antonio, Aug. 31. 2012, no pet.) (mem. op.) (holding jury could determine the evidence did not prove negligence where there was an attack on plaintiff's veracity); Benavente v. Granger, 312 S.W.3d 745, 748-49 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, no pet.) (concluding negligence not established even though driver testified he was at fault when he rear-ended vehicle because driver further testified he was driving more slowly than surrounding traffic); Jordan v. Sava, Inc., 222 S.W.3d 840 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st. Dist.] 2007, no pet.) (concluding jury's "no" answer to negligence question upheld where there was no evidence driver was speeding and driver testified he was traveling at the same speed as general traffic). We overrule appellant's first issue.
In his second issue, Laday contends the evidence is factually insufficient to support the final judgment. When considering a factual-sufficiency challenge to a jury's verdict, we must review and weigh all the evidence, not just the evidence supporting the verdict. Mar. Overseas Corp. v. Ellis, 971 S.W.2d 402, 406-07 (Tex. 1998). When the appellant bears the burden of proof at trial, we set aside a fact finding only if it is so contrary to the great weight and preponderance of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. See Mar. Overseas Corp., 971 S.W.2d at 407. As with a legal-sufficiency challenge, we may not substitute our judgment for that of the jury. Id. The jury is the sole arbiter of the credibility of the witnesses and the weight to be given their testimony. See Golden Eagle Archery, Inc. v. Jackson, 116 S.W.3d 757 (Tex. 2003).
Laday asserts he established that Pedraza was operating the truck, Pedraza's truck was following him, and Pedraza rear-ended Laday's vehicle. Pedraza testified the vehicles were about halfway between intersections, and the vehicles "kept going stopping and going and stopping" and "on one of those times we went, he [Laday] stopped and I failed to stop on time . . . it was an accident." Laday testified he did not see Pedraza's truck before Laday was hit, and Laday did not hear brakes or tires squealing prior to the collision.
It is "uniquely within the jury's province to determine whether plaintiff succeeded in proving negligence by a preponderance of the evidence." See Gaskey, 2009 WL 7047692, at *3 (citing Klein v. Brown-Griffin Texas Distribs., Inc., 562 S.W.2d 910, 911 (Tex. Civ. App.-Amarillo 1978, writ ref'd n.r.e.)); see also Whinery v. Mission Petroleum Carriers, Inc., No. 07-02-0073, 2003 WL 255398, at *3-5 (Tex. App.-Amarillo Apr. 30, 2003, pet. denied) (mem. op.) (concluding finding was not against the great weight and preponderance where driver was operating vehicle below posted speed limit on wet roads and in heavy traffic).
Having considered the record, we cannot conclude that the jury's verdict was so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong and unjust. See Mar. Overseas Corp., 971 S.W.2d at 407. We overrule appellant's second issue.
We affirm the trial court's judgment.
SOURCE; FOURTEENTH COURT OF APPEALS, HOUSTON - 14-13-00638-CV - 2/10/2015