Summary of Alexander v. Kramer Bros. Freight Lines, Inc., Casebook Pgs. 40-41
Facts: Both (P) and (D) were driving tractor trailer trucks that collided with one another. The driver’s stories were contradictory. (P) claimed that (D) cut in front of him. (D) claimed that (P) had been following him closely and hit him from behind. Because of this, (D) claimed as a defense that (P) had been contributory negligent and therefore the accident was at least partly his fault. When the Judge instructed the issue on who bears the burden of proof with respect to contributory negligence he said the (D) did, when he should have said the (P) had the burden. (D) should have objected at this point, but he did not.
Procedural History: Jury returned verdict for (P) and (D) appealed claiming that the Judge erred in his instruction on contributory negligence.
Issue: When the trial judge has erroneously instructed the jury, should judgment be reversed even though no objection was made to the charge at the time?
Rule: Federal Rule 51 requires that an objection to the charge be clearly made before the jury retires, so when this is not done, an erroneous charge will not be grounds for reversal.
Application: Because (D) did not raise an objection to the judge’s erroneous instructions to the jury, there are no grounds for reversal.
Conclusion: Judgment affirmed.