HOUSTON – Apparently, if a plaintiff’s attorney approves a jury charge, the plaintiff has no grounds to accuse the trial court of abusing its discretion for not including a defendant party in the charge.
Well, at least that’s what the First Court of Appeals recently concluded in the case of Maribel Woodard V. McDonald’s Corporation et al.
In December of 2011, Maribel Woodard paid a visit to a McDonald's and purchased an ice cream cone for dessert.
Court records show it was raining as Woodard left the restaurant, and she allegedly slipped and fell while descending down a handicap ramp, which did not include a handrail, resulting in injures to her legs, ankle and back.
Two years later, Woodard filed suit against McDonald’s and HK Management, the owner of the franchised restaurant in question, in Harris County District Court.
The case went to trial on Oct. 3, 2017 and ended that same day.
The trial court prepared the jury charge, which asked jurors whether the negligence of HK Management or Woodard caused the slip and fall incident. McDonald’s Corp. was not included in any of the questions and was not mentioned in the instructions.
Court records show the following exchange occurred during the jury charge conference:
The court: “So, with that . . . what says plaintiff to the charge?”
Plaintiff’s attorney: “I have no objections to the charge.”
The court: “All right….”
Defendants’ attorney: “I’m sorry. I missed that.”
The court: “He said he had no objections.”
Plaintiff’s attorney: “I have no objections.”
Defendants’ attorney: “You have no objections?”
Plaintiff’s attorney: “No.”
The jury returned a verdict finding that neither the negligence of HK Management or Woodard caused her alleged slip and fall.
On appeal, the First Court found that failure to timely object to error in a jury charge constitutes a waiver of that error.
“Moreover, when a party represents to the trial court that she has no objection to the charge, any error is waived,” states the First Court’s March 6 opinion.
“Because she asserted that she had no objection to the jury charge, Woodard waived her right to complain about the charge on appeal.”
Woodard is represented by Bay City attorney Herbert Hawkins Jr.
McDonald’s and HK Management are represented by Lori Pritchett, attorney for The Law Offices of Kilpatrick & White in Houston.
Appeals case No. 01-17-00204