With No Court Reporter’s Record Filed, Texas Court Affirms Take-Nothing Judgment in Car Accident Case – Donahoe v. Jones

Following procedural rules is very important in automobile accident litigation. This is true during the pre-trial period, at trial, and also on appeal. In a recent case, a party seeking relief from an adverse judgment failed to supply a court reporter’s transcript of the proceedings in the lower court.

The unfortunate result was that the appellate court had no viable way to review his complaints of error in the lower court, and thus the take-nothing judgment in favor of an allegedly speeding, cell-phone using driver stood.

 Facts of the Case

In the case of Donahoe v. Jones, the plaintiff claimed that he was injured when his car was struck by an automobile operated by the defendant. According to the plaintiff, the defendant was speeding and talking on a cellphone at the time of the crash. The defendant insisted that the collision was an unavoidable accident; he also asserted the sudden emergency defense.

The case was tried to a jury, which entered a verdict for the defendant. The plaintiff filed a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and, thereafter, a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied the plaintiff’s motions, and he appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

In the court of appeals, the plaintiff argued that he should have been granted a directed verdict at trial because the defendant was negligent as a matter of law insofar as he failed to control his speed and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle without excuse or defense.

In affirming the lower court’s judgment, the court noted that an appeal from a trial court’s denial of a motion for a directed verdict is, at its essence, a challenge to the legal sufficiency of the evidence. Because the plaintiff did not file a court reporter’s record along with his appeal, the court had to presume that the omitted evidence supported the trial court’s judgment. In other words, by failing to present an adequate record to demonstrate his claim that the trial court committed reversible error, the plaintiff waived the issue on appeal.

The plaintiff also argued that the trial court committed reversible error in denying a particular jury instruction, but the court found that the negligence per se instruction that he requested was precluded under the circumstances. With regard to the plaintiff’s argument that he was entitled to judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the court found that the plaintiff’s brief lacked the clear and concise argument necessary to support such a contention.

Get Started on Your Accident Lawsuit

If you’ve been hurt and need legal advice that you can depend on, the Law Offices of Earl Drott, P.C. can help. As a board-certified personal injury attorney with three decades of experience, Mr. Drott knows how to get results in your east Texas car accident case. For an appointment, call (903) 531-9300. We accept cases in Tyler, Smith County, and elsewhere in east Texas. There is no charge for the initial consultation, and most cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis so you don’t have to pay legal fees upfront.

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