One of the core components of the American legal system is the right to a trial by jury. While not every civil lawsuit triggers a jury trial, those that do sometimes come with a myriad of issues that the jury must resolve.
In a car accident case, for instance, the jury may be asked to apportion fault between the respective parties, assess compensatory damages, and perhaps resolve other, case-specific issues. The appellate review of a trial court’s entry of judgment on a jury’s verdict can, therefore, be a rather complex endeavor.
Facts of the Case
In a recently decided case, the plaintiffs were the surviving children and personal representatives of the estate of a woman who was killed after she was run over by an 18-wheeler at an intersection. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury negligence lawsuit against the defendants (the truck driver and the company that employed him), and a jury trial resulted in a determination that the truck driver was 50% responsible for the accident, the trucking company was 30% responsible for the accident, and the decedent was 20% responsible for the accident.
The defendants appealed. Via a cross-appeal, the plaintiffs urged that the trial court had made a legal error in failing to award certain members of the family survival damages and a mathematical error in the calculation of the judgment.
Decision of the Court
The Texas Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the trial court for entry of a judgment in conformity with the court’s opinion on appeal. The trucking company admitted that it was responsible for the tortious acts of its employee, the truck driver, through the doctrine of respondeat superior, but it argued that there was not legally or factually sufficient evidence to support the jury’s finding of negligence against it in its own right. The court disagreed, holding that there was evidence to support the jury’s finding of direct negligence against the trucking company, including testimony to the effect that the trucking company had not used ordinary care in its training of the trucker and in failing to determine whether his seat position allowed him to see in front of the truck.
The court also failed to find any reversible error with respect to the jury’s award of $300,000 each in wrongful death damages to two of the decedent’s children. In so holding, the court noted that both mental anguish and loss of companionship and society were compensable, non-economic damages and that they were separate elements of damage that did not overlap.
With regard to the plaintiffs’ cross appeal, the court found that the defendants had failed to properly raise the issue of some of the plaintiffs’ capacity to sue in the trial court and thus the trial court erred in failing to include in its judgment the jury’s award of $406,316. The court likewise noted that the trial court’s judgment did not correctly calculate the amount of wrongful-death damages awarded to the family or the amount of prejudgment interest.
Consult with a Seasoned East Texas Car Accident Attorney
Losing a loved one is difficult under any circumstance. If the loss was caused by another’s careless or reckless actions, it can be even more painful. If you have lost a loved one and would like to talk to a compassionate east Texas wrongful death attorney about the possibility of taking legal action against the person whom you believe was responsible for your loved one’s untimely passing, call Earl Drott Law at (903) 531-9300. Please do not delay in seeking legal counsel, as claims not filed within the statute of limitations are likely to be dismissed on procedural grounds.
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