What should you do if you show up for a bench trial and there is no court reporter?
The Fort Worth Court of Appeals recently decided an appeal raising this issue. In Kohler v. M & M Truck Conversions, M & M contractually hired Kohler to install a wheelchair lift and related hydraulic equipment on a horse truck. Kohler later sued M & M for failing to pay him for his work.
The parties had a bench trial on the issues. At trial, although there was not a court reporter present to make a record of the proceedings, neither party objected. The court awarded Kohler minimal damages, but the court did not make, and neither party requested, any findings of fact or conclusions of law.
On appeal, Kohler complained that he was denied a court reporter at trial. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court erred by failing to provide a court reporter, but Kohler failed to preserve error because he did not object at trial. For proper preservation, Kohler should have objected at trial as soon as he realized there was not a court reporter. Because Kohler did not object, the trial court did not have an opportunity to rule on the matter and correct it if possible. As the error was not preserved, the court overruled the issue.
The opinion is here.