Mental Anguish Damages to a Car Accident Widower In Texas

In Tidelands Auto Club v. Walters, 699 S.W.2d 939, 940 (Tex. App.-Beaumont 1985, writ ref'd n.r.e.), Walters was a member of Tidelands Automobile Club, through which she had a life insurance policy. She was killed in a one-vehicle accident, and Tidelands asked a justice of the peace whether her autopsy revealed any sign of intoxication. The justice of the peace replied that she was not intoxicated; in fact, she was a total abstainer. Tidelands altered the letter to indicate she had been intoxicated and forwarded the altered letter to the insurance company. When Walters's widower, filed a claim to collect the policy proceeds, the insurance company originally denied the claim. The widower sued and, during the course of discovery, it transpired that the letter from the justice of the peace had in fact been altered. The insurance company hastily paid the widower his claim, but the widower pressed forward with a claim for mental anguish against Tideland. The jury found that the widower had suffered severe emotional distress and awarded him $ 10,000 for it. On appeal, Tideland attacked the legal and factual sufficiency of the evidence to support the jury's finding. Id. at 944. The Beaumont court outlined the widower's testimony about the manifestations of his distress: Upon being informed of the allegations that Mrs. Walters had been intoxicated at the time of the accident, it "upset" him, he couldn't sleep at night, and he "couldn't get it off my mind, knowing that she didn't drink." He further testified he went to see a doctor, not really wanting to, but it "seemed to me I had to do something." He went on to say that when he heard about it he went into shock, he closed himself up in a room for several days and he just could not talk to his children. He stated he was upset and did not want to see anyone. Id. at 945. His daughter testified that the widower was very upset, nervous, and angry. He made comments that he would kill anyone responsible for the statement that Mrs. Walters had been drunk. He had to go to bed for a few days because he could not concentrate and he could not comprehend what was going on. "It was," his daughter said, "just something that he couldn't handle." Id. His daughter confirmed that he consulted a doctor. Id. The Beaumont court held that the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury's finding. Id.