Crown Life Insurance Company v. Casteel

In Crown Life Insurance Company v. Casteel, 22 S.W.3d 378, 43 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 348 (Tex. 2000), the trial court submitted a single broad form question that relied upon five different legal theories of liability, four of which were inapplicable to the plaintiff under the Texas DTPA. The Casteel situation would be roughly applicable to a criminal case if, for example, the State had charged a defendant with DWI and then included, within the information and jury charge, allegations that the defendant was driving a tricycle while intoxicated, parking a motor vehicle while intoxicated in his own private garage, and walking while intoxicated. None of those allegations, though they might subject a person to criminal penalties, constitute the offense of driving while intoxicated under Section 49.04 of the Texas Penal Code. They are improper legal theories to submit to a jury in a DWI case. In Crown, a civil case in which the Texas Supreme Court held: When a jury bases a finding of liability on a single broad-form question that commingles invalid theories of liability with valid theories, the appellate court is often unable to determine the effect of this error. The best the court can do is determine that some evidence could have supported the jury's conclusion on a legally valid theory. . . . Accordingly, the Court held that when a trial court submits a single broad-form liability question incorporating multiple theories of liability, the error is harmful and a new trial is required when the appellate court cannot determine whether the jury based its verdict on an improperly submitted invalid theory. Casteel, 22 S.W.3d at 388.