The Merits of New Trial Orders by Texas Courts Are Now Subject to Appellate Review

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For many decades, parties in Texas courts did not have any right to appellate review of a trial court’s new trial order and trial courts were not required to specify their reasons for setting aside a jury’s verdict. E.g., Johnson v. Fourth Court of Appeals, 700 S.W.2d 916, 918 (Tex. 1985). In fact, under the previous law, a trial court could grant a new trial up to two times on the ground that the jury’s verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, without any right of appellate review. In contrast, a trial court’s denial of a motion for new trial has always been subject to appellate review. TEX. R. CIV. P. 326. Last week, the Texas Supreme Court fixed this anomaly by expanding the mandamus jurisdiction of the appellate courts to allow review of the correctness of a new trial order.

The erosion of the long-standing rule that new trial orders are not subject to appellate review began on July 3, 2009, when a divided Texas Supreme Court (5 4) granted mandamus relief in three cases in which trial courts disregarded jury verdicts by ordering new trials with almost no explanation. In each of these cases, the supreme court ordered the trial courts to clearly identify, with reasonable specificity, their reasons for granting new trials. E.g. In Re: Columbia Medical Center of Las Colinas, 290 S.W.3d 204, 213 (Tex. 2009). The Court, however, left unanswered whether it intended to expand mandamus jurisdiction to permit review of the merits of the trial court’s stated reasons for granting a new trial.

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