Blog

Texas Supreme Court Reviews New Trial Order

In a recent case, the Texas Supreme Court continued its review of orders granting new trial. The ruling involved a worker who had been seriously injured when he fell from scaffolding. He and his wife sued the scaffolding company and won at trial, but they sought a new trial because the damages were far too low. The trial court granted the motion and ordered a new trial "in the interest of justice and fairness," which, until recently, was the standard for granting new trials in effect for about a century. However, last year, the Supreme Court overruled all of that precedent with its opinion in a case named In re Columbia Med. Ctr. of Las Colinas, 290 S.W.3d 204, 212-13 (Tex. 2009). In Columbia, the Supreme Court held that providing a new trial "in the interest of justice" is insufficient; the trial court must detail all of the evidence requiring a new trial.

In the present case, entitled In re United Scaffolding, Inc., the worker argued that his motion for new trial - which set forth the reasons necessitating a new trial - was granted by the trial court, and thus the trial court had, in effect, provided the basis for its ruling. The Supreme Court disagreed.

The Supreme Court held that a "trial court acts arbitrarily and abuses its discretion if it disregards a jury verdict and grants a new trial, but does not specifically set out its reasons. [Citing Columbia.] We also held that (1) stating the new trial is granted 'in the interests of justice and fairness' is not a sufficiently specific reason, and (2) a relator challenging such an order does not have an adequate remedy by appeal." This case is not distinguishable from Columbia, even though the trial court "generally granted the motion" in which the reasons were set forth, because it "specified one reason for granting it: in the interest of justice and fairness."

The Supreme Court further rejected the worker's argument that mandamus was not the proper vehicle and that the "benefits of a prompt retrial outweigh the detriments of interlocutory review." The Supreme Court further held that "an erroneous legal conclusion is an abuse of discretion, even if it may not have been clearly erroneous when made." Finally, the Supreme Court refused to consider the defendant's substantive argument about the correctness of the jury's findings: "Because we do not know the reason the trial court granted the new trial, we will not grant relief other than directing the trial court to specify its reasons for granting the new trial." Therefore, the Supreme Court "direct[ed] the trial court to specify its reasons for disregarding the jury verdict and ordering a new trial . . . [and denied] United's petition seeking mandamus directing the trial court to set aside its order granting a new trial."

The effect of this is that, rather than immediately conducting another trial, the trial court will have to enter an order reviewing the evidence to state the various reasons for a new trial, and then the parties will face the prospect an appeal concerning the sufficiency of those reasons, before the new trial can resolve the suit.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information

Awards & Recognition

  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

Get Your Free Case Review 713.587.9668

Let Us Help You Today! Request a Free Consultation

Bold labels are required.

Contact Information
disclaimer.

The use of the Internet or this form for communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Confidential or time-sensitive information should not be sent through this form.

close

Privacy Policy

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented nearly 100 victims who suffered personal injuries and damages to property from a large fire and explosion resulting in a settlement of more than $50 million. The firm served as lead lawyers on the steering committee in this litigation.

  • $80 Million Personal Injury Large Plant Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 270 plaintiffs', taking a lead role in the plaintiffs' steering committee, who suffered injuries in a large plant explosion resulting in a settlement of nearly $80 million.

  • $50+ Million Personal Injury Plant Fire and Explosion

    The firm successfully represented 45 personal injury victims in a plant fire and explosion, serving on the plaintiffs' steering committee, concluding with a settlement of more than $50 million.

  • $22+ Million Personal Injury Work Site Accident

    The firm prevailed in a personal injury trial for a worksite injury client with the jury returning a verdict and resulting in a judgment of over $22 million for the firm's client.

  • $12 Million Auto Accident 18-Wheeler Collision

    The firm successfully achieved a $12 million settlement for the family of a man who died in an 18 wheeler collision.

  • $30 Million Personal Injury Burn Victims

    The firm prevailed on behalf of three burn victims with settlements totaling nearly $30 million.

Our Record Of Success.

When you are hurt and you choose a law firm to represent you in court or at the negotiation table, you need to carefully consider the firm's record.

More Success Stories