Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On March 23, 2000, Chavez was injured in an automobile accident. More than two years later, on April 19, 2002, Chavez brought a negligence action against Davila, the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident. She also sued Ortega for negligent entrustment. Davila and Ortega filed a motion for summary judgment based on the affirmative defense of limitations and on the lack of evidence that Ortega was liable on a negligent entrustment theory. Chavez responded by asserting that the statute of limitations did not bar her claim because she “was incapacitated and legally disabled due to her being of unsound mind as a direct result of the motor vehicle accident that is the subject of this action.” In support of her argument, Chavez attached her own affidavit along with affidavits of Dr. Billy Ryan and Dr. Dana Lea Comstock. Davila and Ortega objected to these three affidavits. The trial court sustained the objections and entered an order excluding Dr. Ryan’s affidavit “as expert opinion evidence for the reason that Billy Ryan is unqualified to render an opinion on unsound mind.” In that same order the trial court ruled that Chavez’s affidavit “shall not be admitted for the purpose of giving her lay opinion about her alleged ‘unsound mind’ as it has not been shown that Betty Sue Chavez is qualified to render an opinion on unsound mind.” The trial court also entered an order excluding Dr. Comstock’s affidavit “as expert opinion evidence for the reason that Dana Lea Comstock has failed to show that she is qualified and competent to render an opinion on unsound mind.” The trial court then granted summary judgment and denied Chavez’s motion for new trial. HOLDING:Affirmed. First, the appellate court explains, “An unsound mind tolls the statute of limitations. . . . The tolling provision contained in section 16.001 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code is for the purpose of protecting legally disabled persons who have no access to the courts and to insure those persons’ right to bring suit is not precluded by the running of limitations before the disability is removed.” Chavez complains that the trial court erroneously found the experts unqualified to render expert opinions as to whether Chavez was of unsound mind. The party offering the expert’s testimony has the burden of proving the witness is qualified under Texas Rule of Civil Evidence 702, the court points out. “If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise.” Dr. Comstock’s affidavit, along with her curriculum vitae and status summary indicate that she is a self-employed licensed counselor. She holds a doctorate in counseling and has professional experience as a counselor and university professor in the field of counseling. But, the court wrote, “Nowhere does Dr. Comstock give any indication that she is qualified to give an opinion as to whether Chavez is of unsound mind.” The court ruled similarly on the qualifications of Dr. Ryan. Chavez also argues that it was Davila and Ortega’s burden to prove Chavez was of unsound mind. “Chavez, however, cites no authority to support her argument that placing the burden on the plaintiff to produce evidence of unsound mind to avoid summary judgment denies her the constitutional right of access to the court. And, we have found none,” the court wrote. OPINION:Angelini, Justice; Lopez, CJ, Green, Angelini, JJ Lopez, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.