It is well-established under Texas law that attorneys are permitted and expected to advocate zealously on behalf of their clients, but they are subject to limitations with regard to the arguments they can make to the jury. Thus, if an attorney makes an improper argument, the opposing party may have grounds for arguing that the court should vacate the verdict. Recently, a Texas court set forth an opinion in Press Energy Services, LLC and Christopher James Nissley v. Javier Bustillos Ruiz, (Texas State, 8th Court of Appeals), a truck accident case in which the defendant appealed the verdict, explaining the grounds for reversing a judgment on the basis of an improper jury argument. If you suffered injuries in a collision with a commercial truck, it is smart to confer with a trusted Texas truck accident attorney to determine what damages you may be owed.
Procedural History of the Case
It is reported that the plaintiff, who was driving a southbound truck, and the defendant, who was driving a northbound truck, collided in the southbound lane of traffic. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant and his employer, alleging that their gross negligence caused the collision and subsequent damages. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $3 million in compensatory damages and over $1 million in exemplary damages. The defendants moved for a new trial, but their motion was denied. They then appealed.
Improper Jury Arguments
The defendants set forth numerous arguments on appeal, including the assertion that the plaintiff’s counsel set forth improper arguments to the jury by referencing his client’s Mexican origin. Under Texas law, a party seeking reversal of a judgment based on an improper jury argument must show an error that was not provoked or invited and was preserved at trial by a proper objection, motion for mistrial, or motion to instruct.
The petitioner must also demonstrate that the error was not curable by a withdrawal of the statement, an instruction, or reprimand and that the argument, by its extent, nature, and degree, constituted a reversibly harmful error. A reviewing court may only reverse a judgment based on an improper argument if the moving party shows that the likelihood that the improper argument caused harm surpasses the likelihood that the verdict was grounded on the evidence and proper proceedings.
Here, the plaintiff’s attorney made a note of the fact that the plaintiff was Mexican and needed an interpreter during the trial, which the defendant argued was to gain solidarity with the Hispanic jury. The court explained that appeals to racial prejudice are prohibited but found that in the subject case, the mentions of race were merely incidental. Thus, it denied the defendant’s motion.
Speak to a Dedicated Texas Attorney
Tractor-trailers can cause significant damages if they are involved in collisions, and anyone who recklessly operates a truck and causes a crash should be held accountable. If you sustained injuries in a truck accident, it is advisable to speak to an attorney regarding your potential claims. Earl T. Drott is a dedicated Texas attorney who takes pride in helping people injured by the negligence of others in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Drott via the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free consultation.