King v. Maldonado, 1147

Decision Date23 June 1977
Docket NumberNo. 1147,1147
Citation552 S.W.2d 940
PartiesDavid E. KING, Appellant, v. Vidal Garcia MALDONADO et al., Appellees.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

BISSETT, Justice.

The only question presented by this appeal is whether the trial court abused its discretion in allowing two groups of defendants four peremptory challenges each, and allowing plaintiff six such challenges.

The suit arose out of a three-vehicle collision in which David E. King, plaintiff, allegedly was injured, and the automobile owned and operated by Mrs. Clevia F. Braselton, a defendant, was allegedly damaged. According to the allegations contained in plaintiff's petition, he was injured when his vehicle was struck by a truck which was owned by Mariano Rodriguez, under lease to Louisiana Elevator & Storage Company, Inc., and being operated by Vidal Maldonado, which truck was caused to swerve by certain alleged acts of negligence of Mrs. Clevia F. Braselton, the driver of an automobile which was traveling in front of the truck. Plaintiff filed suit on July 25, 1974 against Vidal Maldonado. Later, by amended pleadings, Louisiana Elevator & Storage Company, Inc., Mariano Rodriguez and Mrs. Clevia F. Braselton were made defendants to the suit. Vidal Maldonado filed a cross action against Mrs. Braselton for "indemnity and/or contribution" in the event he "was held liable to plaintiff." Mrs. Braselton filed a third party action against Vidal Maldonado, Mariano Rodriguez and Louisiana Elevator & Storage Company, Inc., to recover damages allegedly sustained to her automobile as a result of the collision.

Trial was to a jury, which found in a less than unanimous verdict that plaintiff was not injured in the collision. A take nothing judgment was rendered against plaintiff on April 28, 1976. Plaintiff has appealed.

Defendant Mrs. Clevia F. Braselton and the remaining defendants were antagonistic to each other at all times material to this appeal. Mrs. Braselton will henceforth be referred to as "Braselton," and the other three defendants, who were not antagonistic to each other, will hereafter be called "Louisiana Elevator."

The trial court timely aligned the parties. The propriety and correctness of the alignment is not questioned in this appeal. Plaintiff concedes that Braselton and Louisiana Elevator were antagonistic to each other.

Prior to the selection of the jury, plaintiff filed his "Motion for Equalization of Peremptory Challenges," wherein he asked for twelve peremptory challenges since Braselton and Louisiana Elevator had each asked for six challenges. The motion was overruled. The trial court allowed plaintiff six peremptory challenges, Braselton four peremptory challenges, and Louisiana Elevator four peremptory challenges. In addition, the defendants were expressly allowed to collaborate in exercising their total of eight peremptory challenges. Plaintiff objected on the grounds that the allowance of a total of eight peremptory challenges to the defendants, and the allowance of only six such challenges to him, plus the permission granted the defendants to collaborate, "thwarts the end of justice in that it unfairly allows the defendants an additional two strikes more than the plaintiff." It was further stated by plaintiff to the Court in what both plaintiff and the trial judge considered to be a Bill of Exception:

"Plaintiff has been harmed thereby in that Plaintiff has thereby needed to use its six peremptory challenges on six jurors the Plaintiff did not want on the panel, and there are at least two other jurors that Plaintiff did not want on the panel, but the failure to equalize strikes has forced Plaintiff in accepting these jurors and not allowing these jurors to be struck. Those jurors are a juror on the second panel, number 12, Al Laechelin, and juror number 9 on the first panel list, Mr. J. L. West."

Plaintiff also objected to the trial court's refusal to sustain his challenge for cause to venireman F. H. Dennis, and in his making his asserted Bill, further stated that as a result of such action by the court he was required to use one of his six challenges on Dennis, and was thereby forced to take venireman Frank Brandon "who plaintiff wished to strike." Plaintiff concluded with the statement:

"(A)ccordingly the plaintiff has been thereby prejudiced due to its being forced to use one of its peremptory challenges on venireman F. H. Dennis and unable to use such strike on venireman Frank Brandon. And, accordingly, plaintiff has been prejudiced in the overruling of its motion for equalization of peremptory challenges in that it had to accept two additional veniremen, J. L. West and Al Laechlin, as a result of the failure to equalize the number of strikes, and defendants' total in their collaboration."

The record shows that venireman Dennis was examined in great detail by plaintiff in his attempt to disqualify him for cause. The voir dire examination of the panel was not reported. No evidence, except part of the voir dire examination as to Dennis, was incorporated in the asserted Bill.

All parties exercised all of their peremptory strikes. There were no duplicate strikes between plaintiff and defendants, and the veniremen, Frank Brandon, Al Laechelin and J. L. West, sat on the jury. The verdict returned was a 10-2 verdict. Al Laechelin voted in plaintiff's favor. J. L. West and Frank Brandon were among the ten jurors who returned the verdict against plaintiff.

Plaintiff's single point of error reads "The trial court erred in failing to equalize the number of peremptory challenges to the veniremen on the jury panel as required by Article 2151a, in that it granted four such challenges to each of two sets of Defendants (total of eight strikes) as against six challenges to Plaintiff, and allowed the Defendant groups to collaborate in exercising their combined eight challenges."

Rule 233, T.R.C.P., provides that each party to a civil suit tried in a district court shall be entitled to six peremptory challenges. The term "each party," as used in the Rule, does not mean the same thing as the word "person," but means each litigant or group of litigants whose interest is antagonistic to another litigant or group of litigants. Retail Credit Co. v. Hyman, 316 S.W.2d 769 (Tex.Civ.App. Houston 1958, writ ref'd).

To be considered in connection with Rule 233 in multiple party cases is Tex.Rev.Civ.Stat.Ann. art. 2151a (Supp.1976), which became effective on July 15, 1971. It reads:

"After proper alignment of parties, it shall be the duty of the court to equalize the number of peremptory challenges provided under Rule 233, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Annotated, in accordance with the ends of justice so that no party is given an unequal advantage because of the number of peremptory challenges allowed that party."

In an appeal where the question presented is whether there has been an abuse of discretion by the trial court in the trial of a case, the burden is on the complaining party to show that the trial which resulted in a judgment adverse to him was materially unfair. Texas Employers' Insurance Association v. McCaslin, 159 Tex. 273, 317 S.W.2d 916 (1958). Therefore, in this case, the burden was on plaintiff to show that the allowance of a total of eight peremptory challenges to the defendants and the allowance of only six such challenges to him, coupled with the fact that the defendants were allowed to confer prior to their exercise of the eight challenges, resulted in a trial that was materially unfair to him.

The Supreme Court of Texas, in Tamburello v. Welch, 392 S.W.2d 114, 117, 118 (Tex.Sup.1965), stated:

"The harmless error rule undoubtedly applies where a party is denied the number of peremptory challenges to which he is entitled . . ."

". . . if a party is improperly denied a single challenge to which he is entitled, the trial may not be so unfair as to warrant a reversal in the absence of some additional showing of prejudice. . . ."

The enactment of Article 2151a did not change the rule of Tamburello v. Welch, supra.

Article 2151a has been construed in a number of cases since its enactment in 1971. We refer to those cases which have a bearing on this appeal.

In Perkins v. Freeman, 518 S.W.2d 532 (Tex.Sup.1974), a child custody...

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13 cases
  • Pojar v. Cifre, 13-03-234-CV.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • February 23, 2006
    ...challenges awarded to each litigant or side so that no litigant or side is given unfair advantage. See TEX.R. CIV. P. 233; King v. Maldonado, 552 S.W.2d 940, 943-45 (Tex.App.-Corpus Christi 1977, writ ref'd n.r.e). When antagonistic parties on the same side are required to share six strikes......
  • Lubbock Mfg. Co. v. Perez
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    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • October 18, 1979
    ...499 S.W.2d 194, NRE; Dean v. Texas Bitulithic Co. (Waco, Tex.Civ.App.1976) 538 S.W.2d 825, no writ; King v. Maldonado (Corpus Christi, Tex.Civ.App.1977) 552 S.W.2d 940, NRE. In an appeal claiming an abuse of discretion by a trial court, the burden is on the complaining party to show that th......
  • Patterson Dental Co. v. Dunn
    • United States
    • Texas Supreme Court
    • December 19, 1979
    ...Petitioners argue that the holding conflicts with prior decisions of other courts of civil appeals. King v. Maldonado, 552 S.W.2d 940 (Tex.Civ.App. Corpus Christi 1977, writ ref'd n. r. e.); Dean v. Texas Bitulithic Co., 538 S.W.2d 825 (Tex.Civ.App. Waco 1976, no writ); Austin Road Co. v. E......
  • Thomas v. Oil & Gas Bldg., Inc.
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    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • April 19, 1979
    ...of peremptory challenges allowed that party." In construing article 2151a, this Court held, in King v. Maldonado, 552 S.W.2d 940 (Tex.Civ.App. Corpus Christi 1977, writ ref'd n. r. e.) ". . . in multiple party cases, Article 2151a does not require, as a matter of law, that each side, after ......
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