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In re Simms

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

August 15, 2019

IN RE JOHNATHAN SIMMS, Relator

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS County Civil Court at Law No. 1, Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 1103691

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Spain and Poissant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          PER CURIAM.

         On July 10, 2019, relator Johnathan Simms filed a petition for writ of mandamus in this court. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 22.221 (Supp.); see also Tex. R. App. P. 52. In the petition, relator asks this court to compel the Honorable George Barnstone, Judge of the County Civil Court at Law No. 1 in Harris County, Texas, to vacate his order dated April 16, 2019, granting real party in interest Jennifer Dao's motion for new trial.

         We conditionally grant the requested mandamus relief.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         After an accident in which their automobiles collided, Dao filed suit against Simms for negligence. At trial, the jury found that the negligence of both Dao and Simms proximately caused the accident and that Dao was fifty-five percent (55%) responsible and that Simms was forty-five percent (45%) responsible.

         The trial court signed a final judgment that Dao take nothing against Simms.

         Dao moved for new trial, arguing that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury's findings that Dao's negligence proximately caused the occurrence and she was 55% responsible.

         On April 16, 2019, Judge Barnstone signed an order granting Dao's motion for new trial.

         Analysis

         Whether the trial court has provided an understandable, reasonably specific explanation for setting aside a jury verdict and ordering a new trial is subject to mandamus review. See In re Bent, 487 S.W.3d 170, 173 (Tex. 2016) (orig. proceeding).

         A new-trial order must initially satisfy the facial validity requirements. See In re Bent, 487 S.W.3d at 173. A trial court granting a motion for new trial must provide an understandable, reasonably specific explanation of the trial court's reasons for setting aside the jury's verdict. See id.; In re Cambell, No. 14-18-01016-CV, __S.W.3d__, 2019 WL 1388648, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 28, 2019, orig. proceeding). A trial court granting a motion for new trial should state one or more reasons for the ruling and those reasons must be both legally appropriate and sufficiently specific to show the trial court did not simply parrot a pro forma template, but rather derived the articulated reasons from the particular facts and circumstances of the case at hand. See In re Bent, 487 S.W.3d at 173; In re Cambell, __S.W.3d at__, 2019 WL 1388648, at *2.

         Dao moved for a new trial, arguing that the evidence is legally and factually insufficient to support the jury's findings that Dao's negligence proximately caused the occurrence and she was 55% responsible. In In re Cambell, we explained the facial requirements for ...


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