A trial court is to be given broad latitude in the choice of language used in charging a jury. Nevertheless, if the trial court's charge does not adequately explain the principle involved, a new trial must be granted.
Appellants, a husband and a wife, challenged a trial court judgment which was entered in favor of appellee port authority in a personal injury action brought to recover damages for injuries sustained by appellant husband as he rode on a bus operated by appellee. Appellants contended that several of the trial court's charges to the jury were erroneous, particularly in refusing to charge the jury that the bus, as a common carrier, owes the highest duty of care to its fare paying passengers.
Are the appellants entitled to a new trial on the ground that the trial court’s charges to the jury were erroneous as to duty and proximate cause?
The court reversed the trial court's judgment and ordered a new trial, holding that while a trial court was given broad latitude in its choice of language used in charging a jury, if that language did not adequately explain the principle involved, then a new trial had to be granted. The court further held that the trial court's charge on appellee's duty did not sufficiently explain that appellee had a heightened duty to appellants and therefore, a new trial was warranted. Moreover, the trial court improperly removed the issue of proximate cause from the jury because reasonable men could differ on the issue. Therefore, that issue should have been left for consideration by the jury.