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Victoria woman walks away empty-handed following civil trial

By BY GHENI PLATENBURG - GPLATENBURG@VICAD.COM
Sept. 16, 2011 at 4:16 a.m.


A Victoria woman seeking $700,000 in damages from a 2009 car wreck walked away empty-handed as her civil trial ended Thursday evening.

A jury found that Rhonda Sue Mallette, 43, was 55 percent at fault for a July 2009 wreck involving Yoakum residents Ivan Escalante and Jesus Valasquez.

Mallette, who was represented by attorney William L. Sciba III, sued the men in July 2009 over claims that she suffered severe personal injuries after being in a collision with a vehicle operated by Escalante and owned and insured by Valasquez.

"My client was real disappointed," said Sciba. "She's sad."

The plaintiff sought $700,000 to help compensate her, $72,957.39 in past medical expenses, $7,188 in past lost wages, and $50,000 for physical pain and mental anguish.

She also sought damages for future losses and expenses as well as court costs.

While the jury awarded Mallette $130,000 in monetary damages, by Texas law, if a person is found to be more than 50 percent responsible for a wreck, they receive no monetary damages.

Therefore, Mallette walked away from the trial with no recovery.

From early on, the defendants, who were represented by attorney Jeff B. Frey, denied the allegations.

The lawsuit contended Escalante was negligent due to his lack of a driver's license, his inattention, failure to keep a proper lookout for the plaintiff's safety, failure to drive in a single lane, failure to give half of roadway and turning when unsafe.

Valasquez was accused of negligence because he entrusted his vehicle to a Escalante, who was described by the plaintiff as a reckless, incompetent driver.

At the time of the collision, Escalante worked for Valasquez, according to the lawsuit.

District Judge Kemper Stephen Williams presided over the case.

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