Appeal from the 270th District Court Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2016-04894
consists of Chief Justice Frost and Justices Zimmerer and
Thompson Frost, Chief Justice
plaintiff in this automobile-accident case appeals the trial
court's denial of his motion for directed verdict,
asserting that the trial evidence conclusively proved that
the defendant's negligence proximately caused the
two-vehicle collision. Concluding that the trial court erred
in denying the motion for directed verdict, we reverse the
trial court's judgment and remand.
Factual and Procedural Background
Robert Pierce was driving his Ford F-150 truck on Eldridge
Parkway when an accident occurred that blocked Pierce from
proceeding. Pierce stopped his truck, and appellant/plaintiff
Gary Ginn stopped his vehicle behind Pierce's truck in
the same lane. Pierce decided he did not want to wait for the
traffic jam to clear, so he put his truck in reverse and
backed up, causing his truck to hit Ginn's stationary
sued Pierce asserting a negligence claim and seeking to
recover damages based on personal injuries Ginn allegedly
suffered as a result of the accident. At the jury trial,
Pierce admitted that the accident "was totally his
fault," but argued that fault is different from
negligence and that Pierce had not been negligent.
the close of the evidence, Ginn moved the trial court to
grant a directed verdict on the liability portion of his
negligence claim. The trial court denied the motion.
trial court asked the jury whether Pierce's negligence
proximately caused the occurrence in question. The jury
answered "no," and did not answer the damages
question, which the court had predicated on an affirmative
answer to the liability question. Ginn did not file any
post-verdict motions. Based on the jury's verdict, the
trial court rendered judgment that Ginn take nothing.
Issues and Analysis
In determining whether the trial court erred in denying
Ginn's motion for directed verdict, do we measure the
sufficiency of the evidence against the charge
first issue, Ginn does not challenge any trial-court ruling;
instead, Ginn attempts to set the stage for his arguments
under the second and third issues that the trial court erred
in denying his directed-verdict motion. Under the first
issue, Ginn notes that no party objected to the liability
question submitted to the jury. Ginn then argues that because
this question contained a reference to "the negligence
of [Pierce]" rather than "the negligence of
[Pierce], if any," the question contained a finding by
the trial court that Pierce was negligent, and the only issue
submitted to the jury in the question was proximate cause.
Ginn asserts that this court should measure the sufficiency
of the evidence against the charge given to the jury, and he
devotes the first issue to arguing the nature of the charge.
Thus, we must determine whether in reviewing the trial
court's denial of Ginn's directed-verdict motion, we
should measure the sufficiency of the evidence against the
charge submitted to the jury.
jury case, to preserve error on a "matter of law"
issue or a "no evidence" issue, a party must raise
the issue in one or more of the following procedural devices:
(1) a motion for directed verdict, (2) an objection at the
charge conference to the submission of the question to the
jury, (3) a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict,
(4) a motion to disregard the jury's answer, or (5) a
motion for new trial. See United Parcel Serv., Inc. v.
Tasdemiroglu, 25 S.W.3d 914, 916 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2000, pet. denied). Ginn preserved error on his
"matter of law" issue only by raising it in his
motion for directed verdict and obtaining an adverse ruling.
He did not attempt to preserve error under any of the other
four means. In reviewing the trial court's ruling in
cases in which appellant preserved error in one of these
other ways, we measure the sufficiency of the evidence
against the charge given if no party objected to the wording
of the charge. See Laxson v. Giddens, 48 S.W.3d 408,
411 (Tex.App.-Waco 2001, pet. denied).
an appellant preserves error on a "matter of law"
issue or a "no evidence" issue only by a motion for
directed verdict, the trial court rules on the motion before
the court has decided what charge it will submit to the jury
and before the jury has rendered its verdict. An appellate
court's review of the merits of a trial court's
ruling is limited to the record in the trial court when the
trial court ruled, and the appellate court does not consider
events that occurred after the trial court's ruling.
See Perry Homes v. Cull, 258 S.W.3d 580, 596 n.89
(Tex. 2008); Univ. of Tex. v. Morris, 344 S.W.2d
426, 429 (Tex. 1961); Stephens Cnty. v. J.N. McCammon,
Inc., 52 S.W.2d 53, 55 (Tex. 1932); Baty v. Bowen,
Miclette & Britt, Inc., 423 S.W.3d 427, 435
(Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied); Hiles
v. Arnie & Co., P.C., 402 S.W.3d 820, 827,
n.7 (Tex.App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2013, pet. denied). In
this appeal, we are reviewing the trial court's denial of
Ginn's motion for directed verdict. When the trial court
denied this motion, the trial court had not determined what
charge it would submit to the jury. Because the charge
conference had not yet occurred, the trial court had not yet
given the parties an opportunity to object to the charge that
the trial court proposed for submission to the jury. In this
context, we conclude that we do not review the "matter
of law" issue asserted in the directed-verdict motion
against the jury charge. See Perry Homes, 258 S.W.3d
at 596 n.89; Univ. of ...