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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:A trucker carrying a load for Texas Electric Cooperative hit a cow in the road. A few minutes later, a vehicle driven by Mae Joyce Brown hit the dead cow. Brown’s vehicle was thrown into the opposite lane of traffic and into the Dillards’ vehicle, killing Kenneth Dillard and injuring his wife and daughter. Brown was also injured in the accident. The Dillards sued TEC and Bumstead for negligence, seeking damages for their personal injuries and for Kenneth’s death. Brown intervened in the suit. The trial court instructed the jury on unavoidable accident. The charge also included an instruction on spoliation based upon TEC’s failure to produce Bumstead’s trip logbook and any evidence of time and speed that it might contain. Guided by the court’s charge, the jury returned a verdict upon which the trial court rendered judgment in the Dillards’ favor. The court of appeals concluded that the trial court erred in refusing TEC’s sole-cause instruction, because a jury could have reasonably inferred from the cows’ presence on the roadway that whoever owned them was the sole cause of both accidents. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case for a new trial. HOLDING:The court reverses the judgment of the court of appeals and remands. “Because the trial court’s charge adequately informed the jury about TEC’s inferential rebuttal defenses, the court of appeals erred in holding that the case should be retried under a more elaborate and granulated charge.” Under the unavoidable-accident instruction that the trial court submitted, TEC was free to argue to the jury that no one’s conduct � including Brown’s � caused the accident, a far easier burden than showing that others were negligent. And that’s what TEC chose to do. Although TEC pleaded in the alternative that Brown’s alleged negligence was the sole proximate cause of the second accident, TEC did not contend during trial that Brown was to blame for the accident. The defense that TEC presented at trial focused solely on the cattle obstructing the road, implicating only the conduct of their unknown owner. Accordingly, the court of appeals relied solely on this conduct as the basis for its holding that a separate sole-proximate-cause instruction should have been submitted. Whatever the conduct of an unknown cattle owner might have been, it did not justify two separate inferential rebuttal instructions on what essentially was one defense. Because the instruction the trial court gave was sufficiently broad to include all shades of TEC’s inferential rebuttal theories concerning the cattle, the trial court did not err in rejecting TEC’s additional request on this same issue. The standard broad-form question is structured such that the jury is not asked whether any particular person was negligent, but whether “the negligence, if any,” of particular persons proximately caused an occurrence. There is at least a potential implication in this phraseology that the occurrence was caused by someone’s negligence. The court finds no harm in explaining to the jury through an inferential rebuttal instruction that no such implication is intended. But giving multiple instructions on every possible rebuttal inference has the potential to skew the jury’s analysis in the other direction. The Texas Pattern Jury Charges presently parse inferential rebuttal defenses into five separate instructions. Many of these instructions overlap to create redundancies that encourage parties to request several so that the point can be repeatedly emphasized. The instructions on new and independent cause and sole proximate cause can cover much of the same territory. Such redundancy is contrary to the spirit of broad-form submission. With respect to inferential rebuttal issues, jurors need not agree on what person or thing caused an occurrence, so long as they agree it was not the defendant. If some jurors here blamed the cattle (unavoidable accident or sudden emergency) and the rest blamed the unknown cow owner (sole proximate cause), their differences would be irrelevant � they would properly return a unanimous defense verdict. Just as jurors may find against a defendant without agreeing on which precise acts were negligent, they should be able to find the opposite without agreeing on the precise reason. The trial court’s instruction presented that alternative to the jury, and TEC was entitled to nothing more, the court holds. OPINION:Harriet O’Neill, J., delivered the court’s opinion.

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