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Landreth v. Reed - 570 S.W.2d 486 (Tex. Civ. App. 1978)

Rule:

Negligence cases are determined upon the traditional concepts of negligence and proximate cause based upon reasonable foreseeability. Although the exact question has not been definitely answered by a decision of the Texas courts, it appears that Texas follows the modern rule and will disregard the artificial distinctions in favor of a decision based upon those traditional concepts.

Facts:

While attending a day nursery operated by defendants J. Landreth and Paula Landreth, d/b/a Happy Acres Nursery and Happy Acres Nursery, 14-month-old K.R. fell into the swimming pool and drowned. K.R.'s parents, plaintiffs James Reed and Elizabeth Reed, individually and as next friend of M.R., K.R.'s minor sister, filed a lawsuit against defendants in Texas state court seeking to recover damages. Based upon jury findings of negligence, proximate cause and damages, the district court entered judgment against the Landreths awarding the Reeds $ 25,000 for their loss, together with $ 2,940 for funeral and medical expenses; K.M's estate was awarded $ 65,000 for the conscious pain and suffering she experienced; M.R. was awarded the sum of $ 25,000 for injuries she received as a result of witnessing the death of her sister. On appeal, the Landreths did not contest the jury findings of negligence or proximate cause, but based their appeal upon 10  points of error that complain of the action of the district court in allowing a non-medical expert witness to testify that M.R. suffered a physical injury, the propriety of M.R.'s recovery of damages for having witnessed the death, several alleged acts of jury misconduct, and the excessiveness of the awards for pain and suffering and for pecuniary loss on the part of the parents.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in admitting a non-medical expert witness to testify that the K.R., the decedent's sister, suffered a physical injury in witnessing her sister's death?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The appellate court affirmed the trial court's judgment. The court held that the district court did not err in admitting non-medical expert testimony. According to the court, the witness, a psychologist and expert in behavioral psychology, was qualified and competent to testify as to the deceased child's mental condition and stability. The court further upheld the damages as to M.R., the surviving sister, because the recovery was based on traditional concepts of negligence, probable cause, and foreseeability.

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