IMPROPER JURY CHARGE RULING UNWINDS TAKE-NOTHING JUDGMENT FOR INSURED – NEW TRIAL GRANTED
In a relatively straightforward case, last Thursday the Texas Court of Appeals for Dallas emphasized how crucial it is to submit correct jury charges to juries. The Texas Court of Appeals in Dallas remanded the case for trial. In Cobb. v. Hansen, 2022 WL 3499998 (Tex.App. – Dallas, August 18, 2022), Cobb sustain injuries at his friends, the Hansens’ house when their gas pizza oven exploded while he was trying to light it given their directions. He sued them for premises liability and general negligence, characterizing it as negligent activity for how they directed him to light the pizza oven. At the trial however, over Cobb’s objection, the court refused to submit a general negligence charge to the jury, only allowing a premises liability questions to be presented to the jury. The jury found the friends not negligent on premises liability questions, and Cobb was given a take-nothing judgment, which he appealed.
The Hansens’ victory was short-lived. The Dallas Court of Appeals held that this was a case in which the matter was timely raised and properly requested, so Rule 278 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure required the trial court to submit questions, instructions, and definitions that are raised by the pleadings and supported by evidence to the jury. It thus found reversible error and remanded the case for a new trial.
Editor’s Note: This case demonstrates the importance of not only convincing the judge or jury, but to also apply the law correctly in submitting the jury charge. MDJW often deploys one of its three Board Certified Appellate Lawyers to charge conferences to help ensure a proper charge is submitted or related error is preserved.