Judge tosses jury verdict and grants plaintiff new trial, declines to give reason

David Yates Aug. 10, 2010, 4:28am


Without offering a reason, Jefferson County District Court Judge Bob Wortham threw out a jury verdict in favor of the defense on Monday, and granted the plaintiff a new trial.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported two months ago, a three-day trial over a car wreck ended June 17 with a zero dollar award when the jury concluded that defendant Brittany Rubel was not negligent when she struck plaintiff Gary Luke.

Luke, along with his wife Angela, filed suit against Rubel in January 2008, alleging that on Jan. 14, 2007, she struck his vehicle "suddenly and without warning" while traveling at an "unsafe rate of speed" in the 440 block of Jimmy Johnson Boulevard in Port Arthur.

The Lukes contended Rubel failed to yield the right of way while making an unsafe lane change. However, jurors found that Rubel was not negligent in causing the collision.

Throughout the trial, Ruble maintained that she "was reacting reasonably to a sudden and unexpected emergency" when she entered Luke's lane.

Shortly after the trial, plaintiff's attorney Michael Ramsey filed a motion for a new trial, arguing that jurors erred because Rubel "was the sole cause of the collision," court papers say.

In response, Rubel's attorney, Steven Ray Thomas, countered by arguing that the jury was asked to determine if his client was negligent, not if she "solely" caused the collision.

Thomas also argued jury verdicts are the foundation of the U.S. legal system and should not be discarded lightly.

Judge Wortham, 58th District Court, held a hearing on the matter on Aug. 9 in which he granted the plaintiffs' motion for new trial without offering a reason.

The Lukes are seeking damages for their alleged mental anguish, medical expenses, disfigurement, impairment and lost wages.

Ramsey is an attorney for the Houston-based Moystn Law Firm.

Thomas is an attorney for the Chamber, Templeton, Cashiola & Thomas law firm in Beaumont.

Case No. A181-112

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