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Federal Jury Charge Practice: Preservation, Instructions, Verdict Forms, and Comparisons to State Court Practice
09/02/2010
Ben L. Mesches

This paper addresses a topic about which Texas appellate practitioners are well-versed—submission of the jury charge—but from a federal perspective. This paper provides an overview of federal jury-charge problems. We begin with the standard of review (usually abuse of discretion), turn to the rules governing requests and objections to instructions (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 51), and review the tools for preserving error and raising charge complaints when there is a preservation problem. We then turn to the form of the verdict and devote significant space to understanding the difference between general and special verdicts (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 49), why special verdict forms are favored, and review preservation and other procedural issues associated with the form of the verdict. This paper concludes with a topic that has vexed Texas courts for more than a decade (the submission of multi-theory claims, damages theories, and defenses). This is an important set of topics for an appellate lawyer because of the many differences between state and federal jury charge practice (highlighted throughout) and the role federal law has played in the evolution of Texas jury charge issues. 

Excerpted from Chapter 13, State Bar of Texas 24th Annual Advanced Civil Appellate Practice Course, September 2-3, 2010. To read the full paper, click on the PDF linked below.