In Ochoa-Cronfel v. Murray, a Texas appellate court considered a personal injury case in which the plaintiff was hurt after the defendant’s dog ran into his bicycle. The case arose when the plaintiff was biking in his neighborhood. The defendant was walking his dog and put the dog’s leash under his foot while he scooped up the dog’s waste. The dog broke free and ran into the front tire of the plaintiff’s bike. The plaintiff was thrown off the bike and hurt his arm. He sued the defendant for damages.
The trial lasted three days, after which the jury found that both the plaintiff and the defendant were negligent. They allocated 55% responsibility to the defendant and 45% to the plaintiff. The judge entered judgment on the verdict and awarded the plaintiff $10,089.75, which was 55% of the damages assessed by the jury.
The plaintiff appealed, arguing that the evidence was insufficient to support the jury’s finding that his negligence was a legal cause of the injury and that the evidence was not sufficient to support the amount awarded for each element of the damages. The judge had ordered the plaintiff to pay $5,000 in sanctions, and the plaintiff argued this was an abuse of discretion.
The appellate court explained that when looking at whether there’s enough evidence to support a finding, the court has to credit evidence that supports the finding if a reasonable factfinder could disregard the evidence opposing it unless a reasonable factfinder wouldn’t. Jurors are allowed to make judgments about the credibility of the witnesses, and if there’s conflicting evidence, the appellate court defers to the jury’s power to resolve those conflicts.
On the issue of contributory negligence, the court considered whether there was enough evidence to support the jury’s finding that the plaintiff was negligent and that the defendant wasn’t 100% responsible for the injury. The plaintiff testified that he had been ramping up his speed as part of a workout and that he biked away from parked cars to avoid being hit by a door of a car suddenly opening. He didn’t see the defendant or his dog beforehand. However, photographic evidence showed that if he had been looking up or around, someone walking on the sidewalk would have been visible to him.
The appellate court found that there was more than a scintilla of evidence to show that the plaintiff was negligent and that this negligence was one legal cause of the accident. The jury could infer from his testimony that he was riding his bike at a high rate of speed in a residential street where people were often out walking, and he was so inattentive and focused on his bike that he didn’t see the defendant or his dog. The jury could have reasonably found that the plaintiff’s failure to see the dog until the dog ran into him could have stemmed from a failure to pay attention to his surroundings.
The court further explained that the jury was asked to look at whose negligence caused the injury in question. Therefore, the jury was allowed to look at evidence at trial that the injury in question included a ligament tear and arthritis that his treating physician testified resulted from the tear, which would require a four-point bone fusion, and that the plaintiff hadn’t acted as a reasonable person would have in suffering the tear. The plaintiff had continued to lift weights after the accident and do other activities that would exacerbate his injuries. He also hadn’t followed his physical therapist’s recommendations about stretching and icing his wrist.
The court also looked at the plaintiff’s challenge to the amount of damages, and it found that a reasonable jury could have made the findings that the jury at hand made regarding each element of damages. It further found that the plaintiff had repeatedly refused to comply with discovery requests and court orders and that this was the basis for the sanctions awarded to the defendant. The lower court’s judgment was affirmed.
If you’re hurt in a San Antonio bicycle accident, the attorneys at Carabin Shaw may be able to represent you and develop a sound strategy for handling your case. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.