Formula instruction refers to an instruction purporting to contain all the elements necessary to reach a verdict. When a formula instruction is given directing a verdict in the event the jury finds certain facts to be true, the instruction must embrace all essential elements. The omission of essential element amounts to error.
The qualities of a formula instruction are summarized in See v. Willett, 61 Wn.2d 681, 683 (Wash. 1963): “Such an instruction purports to summarize all of the issues of the case. The italicized words at the beginning state, in effect, that all of the questions before the jury are summarized in this instruction. Then follows an itemization of the issues presented by the complaint, followed by the statement that, if these issues are resolved in favor of a plaintiff, she is entitled to recover from the defendant. The instruction closes with a paragraph purporting to set out all of the defenses presented by defendant, and tells the jury that, if it finds for defendant as to any of these issues, your verdict should be for the defendant”.
Formula instructions do not constitute prejudicial error when they state all the elements involved in the case or when other specific instructions cover elements omitted from the formula instruction. [Hubbard v. Calvin, 83 Cal. App. 3d 529, 533-534 (Cal. Ct. App. 1978)].