Timing of Jury Instructions in Louisiana

Although this paper is primarily concerned with instructions given at the close of evidence pursuant to article 1792(B), paragraph A of that article allows the judge to instruct the jury “[a]t any time during the trial.” This is commonly done, for example, when an expert witness is called to testify; the judge often instructs the jury at that point concerning the ability of experts to testify about their opinions. Some commentators urge caution, however, because mid-trial instructions may unduly influence the jury. See, e.g., F. Maraist & H. Lemmon, Civil Procedure § 11.10, at 304, in 1 Louisiana Civil Law Treatise (1999).

Article 1796 also allows the court to provide additional or corrected instructions to the jury after the jury has retired for deliberation. This can only be done after notice is given to the parties; further instruction without notice taints the verdict. Carpenter v. Hannan, 01-0467 (La. App. 1 Cir. 3/28/02), 818 So.2d 226; Lawson v. Strauss, 98-2096 (La. App. 4 Cir. 12/8/99), 750 So.2d 234, writ denied, 00-0120 (La. 3/17/00), 756 So.2d 1144.