British American Insurance Company v. Claudette Lewis--Appeal from 66th District Court of Hill County

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British American Ins. v. Lewis /**/




No. 10-94-325-CV









From the 66th District Court

Hill County, Texas

Trial Court # 32831




Among other points, British American alleges in its motion for a rehearing that the evidence is both legally and factually insufficient to support an award for mental anguish under the standard in Parkway Co. v. Woodruff, 901 S.W.2d 434, 442-45 (Tex. 1995). After reviewing the judicial history of mental anguish and noting what it terms the "admittedly nebulous definition [of mental anguish] and the traditional standard of review," the Texas Supreme Court stated:

[I]t is nevertheless clear that an award of mental anguish damages will survive a legal sufficiency challenge when the plaintiffs have introduced direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity of their mental anguish, thus establishing a substantial disruption in the plaintiffs' daily routine. Such evidence, whether in the form of the claimants' own testimony, that of third parties, or that of experts, is more likely to provide the fact finder with adequate details to assess mental anguish claims. Although we stop short of requiring this type of evidence in all cases in which mental anguish damages are sought, the absence of this type of evidence, particularly when it can be readily supplied or procured by the plaintiff, justifies close judicial scrutiny of other evidence offered on this element of damages.


Id. at 444 (emphasis added). Finding that the Woodruffs had failed to present any direct evidence of the nature, duration, or severity of their anguish, the Court concluded that under the traditional no-evidence standard of review they had failed to produce any evidence of "a high degree of mental pain and distress" and that the evidence showed nothing more than "mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger," which would not support an award for mental anguish. Id.

We will not reproduce the evidence relating to the award of mental anguish, which is detailed in our original opinion. Suffice it to say, however, that Claudette produced direct evidence of the nature, duration, and severity of her mental anguish, both in the form of her own testimony and that of psychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Schack. Dr. Schack's expert testimony, in particular, added additional weight to Claudette's testimony about the existence, nature, duration, and severity of her mental anguish. Moreover, the extraordinary and egregious nature of the disturbing event, i.e., essentially being accused by Dr. Griffith of complicity in her husband's death, is a quantum leap ahead of the event in Woodruff merely having one's house flooded. Id. at 445 & n.10. Surely, such an allegation is reasonably calculated to produce a high degree of mental pain and distress and something more than the mere worry, anxiety, vexation, embarrassment, or anger that attends the ordinary vicissitudes of life.

Because the record contains some direct evidence of the degree of mental anguish that will support a recovery, we adhere to our original ruling on British American's legal-sufficiency point. Considering the record as a whole, we likewise refuse to alter our ruling on the evidence's factual sufficiency. Unlike the jury in Woodruff, the jury here was not left to speculate on the existence of compensable mental anguish. Id. at 444. We deny British

American's motion for a rehearing.


Before Chief Justice Thomas,

Justice Cummings, and

Justice Vance

Motion for rehearing denied

Opinion issued and filed February 14, 1996

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