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Guevara v. Ferrer – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Guevara v. Ferrer, 247 S.W.3d 662 (Tex. 2007), Ferrer's father, Arturo, an eighty-six-year-old man, suffered several heart and abdominal injuries after being involved in a car accident.

Arguing against a motion for a directed verdict, Ferrer argued that the evidence of the sequence of treatments following the accident combined with lay testimony about the accident and Arturo's having no abdominal problems or requiring a ventilator prior to the accident was sufficient to establish a causal relationship.

The motion for directed verdict was denied and the jury found damages of $ 1.1 million for Arturo's medical expenses.

On the defendant's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the trial court entered a take-nothing judgment as to Arturo.

The Court stated:

"Non-expert evidence of circumstances surrounding the accident and Arturo's complaints is sufficient to allow a layperson of common knowledge and experience to determine that Arturo's immediate post-accident condition which resulted in his being transported to an emergency room and examined in the emergency room were causally related to the accident. Thus, the evidence is legally sufficient to support a finding that some of his medical expenses were causally related to the accident. On the other hand, the evidence is not legally sufficient to prove what the conditions were that generated all the medical expenses or that the accident caused all of the conditions and the expenses for their treatment."

The Texas Supreme Court concluded that "expert medical evidence is required to prove causation unless competent evidence supports a finding that the conditions in question, the causal relationship between the conditions and the accident, and the necessity of the particular medical treatments for the conditions are within the common knowledge and experience of laypersons."

It also observed that expert testimony on causation is not required in limited circumstances when "both the occurrence and conditions complained of are such that the general experience and common sense of lay-persons are sufficient to evaluate the conditions and whether they were probably caused by the occurrence." Guevara, 247 S.W.3d at 667-68.

The Texas Supreme Court noted that "the causal connection between some events and conditions of a basic nature (and treatment for such conditions) are within a layperson's general experience and common sense." Id.

For instance, "courts have held that causation as to certain types of pain, bone fractures, and similar basic conditions following an automobile collision can be within the common experience of lay jurors." Id.

"Thus, non-expert evidence alone is sufficient to support a finding of causation in limited circumstances where both the occurrence and conditions complained of are such that the general experience and common sense of laypersons are sufficient to evaluate the conditions and whether they were probably caused by the occurrence." Id. at 669.

The Court noted that there were situations where a "causal connection between some events and conditions of a basic nature (and treatment for such conditions) are within a layperson's general experience and com-mon sense." Id. at 668.

The court noted that federal courts have held that temporal proximity between an accident and injury will not, by itself, support an inference of medical causation. Id. at 667.

Causation as to "certain types of pain, bone fractures, and similar basic conditions following an automobile collision can be within the common experience of lay jurors." Id.

In Guevara, the court determined that the circumstances surrounding the accident and the plaintiff's com-plaints were sufficient to allow a layperson to determine that plaintiff's immediate post-accident condition resulting in a trip to the emergency room was causally related to the accident. But, the supreme court ultimately concluded that the evidence was "not legally sufficient to prove what the conditions were that generated all the medical expenses or that the accident caused all of the conditions and the expenses for their treatment." Id. at 670.

In applying Guevara's limited exception to the facts here, I would consider the accident and the injuries Rios complains of to determine if they are of the type that "the general experience and common sense of layper-sons" are sufficient to evaluate her injuries and whether they were more likely than not caused by the motor vehicle accident. Id. at 668.

The supreme court held that, based on the particular facts presented in that case, expert testimony was re-quired to support a finding that an automobile accident caused over $ 1 million of medical expenses for at least two abdominal surgeries; three separate confinements in health care facilities; a great variety and quantity of pharmaceutical supplies, medicines, and drugs; physical therapy; and other expenses.

The supreme court in Guevara, however, expressly refused to hold that such expert medical testimony is required in every personal injury case:

"Undoubtedly, the causal connection between some events and conditions of a basic nature (and treatment for such conditions) are within a layperson's general experience and common sense. This conclusion accords with human experience, our prior cases, and the law in other states where courts have held that causation as to certain types of pain, bone fractures, and similar basic conditions fol-lowing an automobile collision can be within the common experience of lay jurors." Id.