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Legal Memorandum: Spoliation Instruction Reversal in TX

Issue: What is the applicable law regarding standards for reversing trial court on spoliation instruction in Texas?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Spoliation instruction; Reversal; Improper judgment proof
Jurisdiction: Texas
Cited Cases: 106 S.W.3d 718; 969 S.W.2d 950; 571 S.W.2d 859
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 06/01/2013

In general, a trial court has “great latitude and considerable discretion” to determine necessary and proper jury instructions.  Louisiana Pac. Corp. v. Knighten, 976 S.W.2d 674, 676 (Tex. 1998).  “If an instruction might aid the jury in answering the issues presented to them, or if there is any support in the evidence for an instruction, the instruction is proper.”  Id. (emphasis added).  With respect to the spoliation issue in particular:

Trial courts have broad discretion in taking measures to address spoliation of evidence.  See Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Johnson, 106 S.W.3d 718, 721 (Tex. 2003); Trevino v. Ortega, 969 S.W.2d 950, 953 (Tex. 1998).  A trial court abuses its discretion by acting arbitrarily, unreasonably, or without consideration of guiding principles.  Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 241-42 (Tex. 1985).  A trial court generally does not abuse its discretion when it bases its decision on conflicting evidence.  Davis v. Huey, 571 S.W.2d 859, 862 (Tex. 1978).

 

Cardoza v. Reliant Energy HL&P, No. 01-03-01126-CV (Tex. App.–Houston 1st Dist. May 20, 2005) (emphasis added).

However, even if the trial court abuses its “considerable discretion” by giving an improper spoliation instruction, the error is not reversible “unless its submission probably caused rendition of an improper judgment.”  Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Johnson, 106 S.W.3d 718, 723-24 (Tex. 2003).  In the context of a spoliation instruction, the Texas Supreme Court is especially amenable to a determination that […]

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