In the last Legislature (82nd), House Bill 274 was passed, which made many changes to the Texas Government Code, Texas Rules of Evidence, and Texas Rules of Civil Procedure in order to try and control the speed and costs of legal actions. They took a two prong approach in order to do this: 1) create Rule 91a and amend Rule 47 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, and 2) create Rule 169 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and amend Rule 190 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. The first changes made affect the ability to dismiss the case and damages. I will talk about these changes in another article. I would like to focus on the portion of the rule changes that promote an expedited action of the cases.
This part I personally believe have been needed for a while, in the sense that it has become too easy for some sides to make it their main defense strategy to delay, stall, and perform excessive discovery merely in an attempt to increase the attorney’s fees to amounts that eventually become un-payable by the claimants. Hopefully, the intent of the law will actually play out in real life, because we all know not everything works out as well as intended.
Again, the rules below only apply to cases where damages are less than $100K (including all penalties, costs, expenses, pre-judgment interest and attorney’s fees) and do not involve the Family, Property, and Tax codes or Chapter 74 of the Civil Practice & Remedies Code.
The first part of the changes involves instituting rules for expedited actions (Rule 169 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure). All this really means is that they are trying to put hard and fast deadlines in the case so one side can’t abuse the system with delay tactics, which will expedite the case and keep fees down. Here is a general breakdown (of course, there are exceptions and differences, so I have posted a link to full changes at the end of the article):
- Discovery is governed by Rule 190.2 (covered below)
- The court must set the case for trial within 90 days of the discovery period ending, and the court may continue the case twice, but the continuances may not exceed a total of 60 days.
- As far as the trial goes, each side is allowed no more than eight hours to complete everything. However, the court may allow up to twelve hours per side.
- The court may refer the case to an alternative dispute resolution procedure once, but may not exceed a half-day. Further, the ADR procedure is not to exceed the total cost of twice the amount of applicable civil filing, and must be completed no later than 60 days before initial trial setting.
- A party may only challenge the admissibility of expert testimony as an objection to summary judgment evidence under Rule 166 or during the trial on merits.
- All discovery must be completed within 180 days of the first request of discovery by either party.
- Each party may have no more than six hours total to examine and cross-examine all witnesses in oral depositions. This may be expanded up to ten hours if both parties agree.
- No more than 15 interrogatories.
- No more than 15 requests for production.
- No more than 15 request for admissions.