Litigation Update: Amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
For cases filed on or after January 1, 2021 new discovery and pleading rules apply.
Tex. R. Civ. P. 47
The lower limit for pleadings is now $250,000.00. Going forward, should this damage amount apply, Plaintiffs must plead their claims are for monetary relief of $250,000.00 or less, excluding interest, statutory or punitive damages and penalties, and attorneys’ fees and costs.
This is significant because pursuant to Tex. R. Civ. P. 169, the case will be governed under the expedited actions process and counsel must follow the discovery deadlines set forth in the Rule. Some attorneys are weary to follow the Level 1 Discovery timetable such as when the discovery deadline ends and begins and when experts must be designated. However, this change in the rules can be a Plaintiff’s friend by moving the cases down the path to trial with no delays. The burden could lie for those practices that have a high volume car accident docket. Many cases being set for trial at once and only being allowed to continue the trial setting twice. Rule 11 Agreements may become more often used as it relates to these Level 1 deadlines. Don’t forget, although rare, counsel can remove a case from the expedited actions process for “good cause”.
Tex. R. Civ. P. 194
Requests for Disclosure are no longer a form of discovery. Instead, like the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties are required to serve initial disclosures. Per the comments of the new Rule, Rule 194 is amended based on the Federal Rules to require basic discovery automatically without awaiting a request.
The significance is a party cannot serve interrogatories, requests for production of documents or requests for admissions until after the opposing party’s initial disclosures are due. For Plaintiffs’ counsel who preferred serving written discovery with their petitions, this is a litigation technique of the past. If you are filing a lawsuit close to the statute of limitations and are relying on the production of documents to get information to add potential parties—this new rule will not be your friend.