Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, No. 5086

CourtCourt of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
Writing for the CourtANDERSON
Citation289 S.W.2d 631
Decision Date09 February 1956
Docket NumberNo. 5086
PartiesSUTTON MOTOR COMPANY and M. J. Porter, Appellants, v. E. R. CRYSEL, Appellee.

Page 631

289 S.W.2d 631
SUTTON MOTOR COMPANY and M. J. Porter, Appellants,
v.
E. R. CRYSEL, Appellee.
No. 5086.
Court of Civil Appeals of Texas, Beaumont.
Feb. 9, 1956.
Rehearing Denied April 25, 1956.

Orgain, Bell & Tucker, Beaumont, for appellants.

D. F. Sanders, Beaumont, for appellee.

ANDERSON, Justice.

The appellee, E. R. Crysel, who will also be referred to as plaintiff, sued Sutton Motor Company and M. J. Porter for damages because of personal injuries which he alleges his wife sustained and because of damage done his automobile when, on August 21, 1954, in the city of Beaumont, his automobile, which he was driving, was in collision with a motor vehicle (a light wrecker) which was owned by Sutton Motor Company and was being driven by Porter. On a jury's special-issue verdict, judgment was rendered in favor of plaintiff against defendants, jointly and severally, for the sum of $10,788.45. The defendants have duly perfected their appeal, and have brought forward twelve points of alleged error.

Except for point twelve, which pertains to the argument of counsel, the points all focus, in one way or another, on the nature and extent of the personal injuries to plaintiff's wife. They require determination of whether the law supports recovery for the kind of injuries Mrs. Crysel is claimed to have sustained, of whether the court's charge regarding Mrs. Crysel's injuries and the elements to be considered by the jury in assessing damages because of them was correct, and of whether, assuming compensable injuries to have been shown, the damages awarded because of them are excessive.

The evidence failed to show that as a result of the collision Mrs. Crysel sustained physical injury in the sense of a laceration, contusion, fracture, sprain, or similar damage to what is perhaps commonly thought of as the physical structure of the body. However, there was evidence to show that she was badly frightened by the occurrence at the time and that some four days later-on Wednesday following the Saturday of the collision-she commenced to experience recurring nervous seizures which were accompanied by severe headaches, dizziness, crying spells, irritability, pains in her back, and strange mental sensations that caused her to fear that she was losing her mind. These seizures having continued to recur at frequent intervals for several days, Mrs. Crysel finally, on September 3, 1954, submitted herself to the care of a neurologist and psychiatrist.

Page 634

She was subsequently placed in a hospital and kept there for a week, and she took medicine over a period of several months. Her condition was diagnosed as a neurotic reaction, a nervous disorder of the reactive-depressive type, and we think the jury was at liberty to conclude from the evidence that such condition was brought about by the fright Mrs. Crysel experienced at the time of the collision. There was evidence to show that the nervous disorder has disabled Mrs. Crysel from performing many of her normal household activities and has caused her to experience both physical and mental pain and distress.

Upon the theory that Mrs. Crysel had not been shown to have suffered a compensable injury, defendants moved for an instructed verdict on that phase of the case and also objected to the submission to the jury of a special issue pertaining to such damages. Both the motion and the objection were overruled, and each of these rulings is now assigned as error.

We think the rulings were correct. It is well established in this jurisdiction that the law will support recovery for physical or bodily injury or illness produced by fear or mental shock, when the fear or shock and the injury or illness are proximate results of negligent conduct on the part of the person sought to be held liable. Hill v. Kimball, 76 Tex. 210, 13 S.W. 59; Gulf C. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Hayter, 93 Tex. 239, 54 S.W. 944, 47 L.R.A. 325; St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. of Texas v. Alexander, 106 Tex. 518, 172 S.W. 709; Houston Electric Co. v. Dorsett, 145 Tex. 95, 194 S.W.2d 546; St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. of Texas v. Murdock, 54 Tex.Civ.App. 249, 116 S.W. 139, writ refused; St. Louis S. W. Ry. Co. of Texas v. Mitchell, 25 Tex.Civ.App. 197, 60 S.W. 891, writ refused; Duty v. General Finance Company, Tex., 273 S.W.2d 64; Bailey v. American General Insurance Company, Tex., 279 S.W.2d 315. It is likewise settled, we think, that a neurosis such as there was evidence to show that Mrs. Crysel has been afflicted with, together with its attendant physical aches and pains, is a physical injury or illness, within contemplation of law. We take this to be, in substance and in final analysis, the appraisal which, in Bailey v. American General Insurance Company, supra, the Supreme Court itself placed on the cases of Gulf, C. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Hayter, supra, and Houston Electric Co. v. Dorsett, supra. And in that case-i. e., Bailey v. American General Insurance Company (279 S.W.2d 318)-it was held that a neurosis or nervous disorder which appears to have been very similar to the one the evidence indicates Mrs. Crysel has suffered from amounted to damage or harm to the "physical structure of the body", within contemplation of our Workmen's Compensation Law, Vernon's Ann.Civ.St. art. 8306, § 1 et seq. It was stated in the course of the opinion that, negligence and proximate cause being presupposed, the condition from which the claimant in that case suffered would have supported a common law action for damages. In the case of St. Louis Southwestern Ry. Co. of Texas v. Alexander, supra (106 Tex. 518, 172 S.W. 710), recovery was permitted where it was shown that the frightened person had fainted and had subsequently suffered from 'nervous trouble.' It was there said: 'It has been definitely settled for this state that damages may be awarded for injuries, mental and physical, when caused by fright. It would be profitless to pursue the subject further.' Mrs. Crysel's symptoms embrace virtually the same symptoms as were claimed by the plaintiffs in both the case of Gulf C. & S. F. Ry. Co. v. Hayter, supra, and the case of Houston Electric Co. v. Dorsett, supra, and we think that the evidence was sufficient to require submission to the jury of issues relative to her injuries and the damages thereby caused plaintiff. Appellants' points one and two are therefore overruled.

In response to special issues one and two the jury found that Mrs. Crysel was 'injured' in the collision. In submitting the issues the court neither defined nor undertook to define the word 'injury' or the word 'injured', and refused to give the following definition, which was requested by the defendant: 'By the term 'injury' as used in the court's charge, is meant damage

Page 635

or harm to the physical structures of the body. You are further instructed that fright alone does not constitute an injury as that term is used in the court's charge.' Refusal to give such definition is assigned as error.

Assuming that under the facts of the particular case the trial court should have defined the word 'injury' or the word 'injured', still no reversible error is presented by its refusal to give the definition the defendants requested, unless that definition was substantially correct. Rule 279, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure; Havens v. Guetersloh, Tex.Civ.App., 255 S.W.2d 233. We feel that the requested definition would not have been a substantially correct guide for the jury in this instance, and accordingly hold that no error was committed by the trial court in refusing to give it. It is calculated to have led the jury to believe that Mrs. Crysel had sustained no injury, within contemplation of law, unless, as a result of the impact, she had suffered direct injury to some part of what is commonly thought of as 'the physical structure of the body'-i. e., to either bone or tissue-and, as already pointed out, the law is not so restrictive. Had it been given, the requested definition may well have been more detrimental to plaintiff's rights than the failure to define the term can reasonably have been to defendant's rights. A definition of the term or word, in cases such as this, should make due allowance for nervous disorders and physical and mental ailments resulting from objective fright or mental shock. Appellants' fourth point is overruled.

Three separate damage-issues were submitted to the jury. One of these pertained to automobile damage; one, to medical and hospital expense; and the other, to damages, other than medical and hospital expense, resulting from Mrs. Crysel's personal injuries. The last mentioned issue, special issue No. 28, was as follows:

'What do you find from a preponderance of the evidence to be the sum of money, if any, if paid now in cash, would fairly and...

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15 practice notes
  • Leal v. C. C. Pitts Sand & Gravel, Inc., No. 14558
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • March 22, 1967
    ...v. Mitchell, 25 Tex.Civ.App. 197, 60 S.W . 891 (1901, writ ref'd), and cases involving traumatic neuroses. Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631 (Tex.Civ.App., 1956, no 11 See, generally, Gordon, The Unborn Plaintiff, 63 Mich.L.Rev. 579 (1965). 12 78 S.W.2d at 948. The statute in quest......
  • Chapa v. Traciers & Associates, No. 14-07-00056-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 31, 2008
    ...Worth 1968, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (Chapas rely on language taken from a jury charge in a waived point of error); Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631, 633-34 (Tex.Civ.App.-Beaumont 1956, no writ) (passenger in car accident developed neurosis requiring 20. See Keith, 970 S.W.2d at 542 (mo......
  • Williamson v. Bennett, No. 243
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 14, 1960
    ...be regarded as 'physical' injuries. Bowman v. Williams, 1933, 164 Md. 397, 165 A. 182; Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, Tex.Civ.App.1956, 289 S.W.2d 631. In a decision of this Court, Kimberly v. Howland, supra [143 N.C. 398, 55 S.E. 780], it is said: 'The nerves are as much a part of the physica......
  • Mackin v. State, No. 35433
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • April 3, 1963
    ...314 S.W.2d 106; Wiley v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 350 S.W.2d 22; Ramirez v. Acker, 134 Tex. 647, 138 S.W.2d 1054; Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631 In Brister v. State, 97 Tex.Cr.R. 395, 262 S.W. 82, the court was presented with the following argument: "I say to you, on my oath as distr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
15 cases
  • Leal v. C. C. Pitts Sand & Gravel, Inc., No. 14558
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Civil Appeals of Texas
    • March 22, 1967
    ...v. Mitchell, 25 Tex.Civ.App. 197, 60 S.W . 891 (1901, writ ref'd), and cases involving traumatic neuroses. Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631 (Tex.Civ.App., 1956, no 11 See, generally, Gordon, The Unborn Plaintiff, 63 Mich.L.Rev. 579 (1965). 12 78 S.W.2d at 948. The statute in quest......
  • Chapa v. Traciers & Associates, No. 14-07-00056-CV.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas
    • July 31, 2008
    ...Worth 1968, writ ref'd n.r.e.) (Chapas rely on language taken from a jury charge in a waived point of error); Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631, 633-34 (Tex.Civ.App.-Beaumont 1956, no writ) (passenger in car accident developed neurosis requiring 20. See Keith, 970 S.W.2d at 542 (mo......
  • Williamson v. Bennett, No. 243
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • January 14, 1960
    ...be regarded as 'physical' injuries. Bowman v. Williams, 1933, 164 Md. 397, 165 A. 182; Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, Tex.Civ.App.1956, 289 S.W.2d 631. In a decision of this Court, Kimberly v. Howland, supra [143 N.C. 398, 55 S.E. 780], it is said: 'The nerves are as much a part of the physica......
  • Mackin v. State, No. 35433
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas
    • April 3, 1963
    ...314 S.W.2d 106; Wiley v. State, Tex.Cr.App., 350 S.W.2d 22; Ramirez v. Acker, 134 Tex. 647, 138 S.W.2d 1054; Sutton Motor Co. v. Crysel, 289 S.W.2d 631 In Brister v. State, 97 Tex.Cr.R. 395, 262 S.W. 82, the court was presented with the following argument: "I say to you, on my oath as distr......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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