Texas Appellate Court Finds Pro Se Plaintiff’s Appeal Failed, Largely Due to Procedural Missteps – Manigault v. Thorn-Henderson

Law gavel with reflection

When a motor vehicle accident causes property damage, a personal injury, or a wrongful death, the aggrieved party has the right to file suit in a court of law. If the parties (and their respective insurance companies, if applicable) are unable to resolve the matter via a settlement agreement, the case will eventually be tried to a jury (or, sometimes, a judge alone).

If either party is dissatisfied with the result of the trial, there is the option of an appeal. However, seeking the review of an appellate court can be costly and time-consuming. Even for attorneys well-versed in appellate procedure, an appeal can be daunting.

Facts of the Case

Recently, the Court of Appeals for the Twelfth Court of Appeals District at Tyler, Texas, had the rare occasion to entertain a pro se appeal of a car accident case. The plaintiff was represented by counsel for at least part of the trial proceedings, but, for reasons not apparent in the court’s opinion, she and her attorney had apparently parted ways.

The case of Manigault v. Thorn-Henderson began when the defendant drove her vehicle into the back of the plaintiff’s vehicle while the plaintiff was stopped at a red light. The plaintiff filed suit, seeking money damages for past and future physical pain and mental anguish, past and future physical impairment, past medical expenses, and past loss of earning capacity.

The jury found that the defendant’s negligence caused the accident and awarded the plaintiff damages for past physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment, and medical expenses. It declined to award the plaintiff damages for past loss of earning capacity or future physical pain, mental anguish, or physical impairment.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The plaintiff’s pro se appeal set forth 11 issues for the higher court’s consideration, including the alleged ineffective assistance of her trial counsel. The court overruled all 11 issues and affirmed the trial court’s judgment. With regard to the ineffective assistance of counsel argument, the court noted that, in criminal proceedings, such claims are evaluated under the two-step analysis of Strickland v. Washington, but it found that the doctrine of ineffective assistance of counsel was inapplicable in a civil lawsuit such as the one at bar.

With regard to the remaining issues, the court found that the plaintiff had failed to properly preserve several of the issues, including whether the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support her damages claim, since she had failed to file a motion for a new trial following the alleged error in the trial court and had not moved for a directed verdict on the damages issue at trial. As to the issue of whether hearsay evidence should have been admitted, the appellate court agreed with the trial court’s ruling. The court also found that the plaintiff’s arguments concerning a lack of due process were unconvincing.

An East Texas Car Accident Attorney Advocating for Your Rights

As this case illustrates, the legal system can be complex and procedurally demanding. Failing to comply with court rules can be costly, both in an appeal and at trial. If you need help investigating, litigating, and negotiating a car accident case, you need an attorney who understands the laws and the procedural requirements required by the Texas courts. To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable and aggressive Tyler auto accident attorney, call the Law Firm of Earl Drott at (903) 531-9300. We represent clients throughout Tyler and the surrounding area, as well as elsewhere in East Texas.

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