Saturday, December 28, 2013

Rojas v. Richardson case brief

Rojas v. Richardson case brief summary
703 F.2d 186 (1983)

CASE SYNOPSIS
Plaintiff sought review of an order of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas that entered a jury verdict in favor of defendants regarding plaintiff's claim for negligence and for medical payments under oral employment contract.

CASE FACTS
Plaintiff was a ranch hand who was injured by a horse during employment with defendants. Plaintiff brought claims for negligence and for medical expenses under oral employment contract and defendants pled contributory negligence. During closing arguments, defendants' attorney made reference to plaintiff's illegal alien status. Plaintiff's pre-trial motion on the issue was denied, but plaintiff failed to object at trial to the reference. The trial court gave a curative jury instruction emphasizing an illegal alien's right to equal access to justice. Plaintiff claimed error in the racial references, the court remarks on the quality of the case, and jury instructions.

DISCUSSION

  • The reviewing court reversed and remanded for a new trial holding where racial and ethnic references were highly prejudicial, plain error was found and preservation of issue at trial was not necessary. 
  • The curative jury instruction regarding equal access was inadequate to rebuild fairness into the trial.
CONCLUSION
The reviewing court reversed and remanded for a new trial holding where defendants' attorney's closing arguments referred to plaintiff's illegal alien status, remarks were highly prejudicial and curative jury instruction was inadequate to rebuild fairness into proceedings.

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