In Musa (“Moses”) N. Musallam v. Amar B. Ali, a breach of contract case, the Texas Supreme Court determined whether a party who fails to object to the submission of a particular question to the Jury can later challenge the sufficiency of evidence supporting the submission of that question and/or assert that the Jury’s response to the question is immaterial.
In this case, Musallam and Ali entered into an agreement regarding the sale of Musallam’s business to Ali. When a disagreement arose and eventually a lawsuit was filed, Musallam argued that the elements of a binding contract were not present; therefore, the agreement was not binding.
At trial a question was posed to the jury asking whether Musallam and Ali had come to an agreement regarding the sale of the business. Musallam did not object to this question. When the jury found in favor of Ali, Musallam submitted a motion for judgement notwithstanding the verdict. The trial court denied the motion for JNOV, and Musallam appealed. The appellate court held that Musallam had failed to preserve error to challenge both inclusion of the question in the charge and the jury’s answer to it by failing to object to the question. Musallam appealed this issue to the Texas Supreme Court.
Before the Texas Supreme Court, Musallam argued “…that the court of appeals erred by failing to address the merits of his assertion that the Agreement was an unenforceable agreement to agree.” He also claimed that “…his failure to object to Question 1 did not preclude him from later arguing either that the jury’s finding was not supported by the evidence, or that as a matter of law the Stock Transfer Agreement was an unenforceable agreement to agree.”
Pointing to the language of Rule 279, the Court held that failing to object to a jury question does not bar a later challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting that question. Additionally, the Court clarified that “a complaint that a jury’s answer is immaterial is not a jury charge complaint;” therefore, the failure to object to a jury question does not bar a party from arguing that the jury’s finding is immaterial and thus may be disregarded by the trial court.
As the appellate court did not address Musallam’s arguments that there was not a binding an enforceable agreement between the parties, the Court remanded the case to the court of appeals for further proceedings.