Big Changes to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure

The Texas Supreme Court has made significant amendments to Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, effective January 1, 2021. We’ve read through them and summarize the biggest changes here.

Texas Goes Federal with Disclosures

  1. Unless otherwise agreed or ordered by the court, parties must serve required, initial disclosures within 30 days after the filing of the first answer or 30 days after being served as a new party to a suit, including a copy or description of the category and location of all documents that may be used to support claims, defenses, and damages (in other words, litigators need to get their proof together–and push opposing parties to do the same–early on in the case);
  2. If disclosures documents are too voluminous, disclosure response must state a reasonable time and place for production; and
  3. No one can serve discovery until after the initial disclosures are due.

Experts Can Wait

  1. Testifying expert info, previously requested as disclosures, is no longer due with the initial disclosures, but is due 90 days before trial for parties seeking affirmative relief and 60 days before trial for all other experts;
  2. Party cannot request additional discovery re: experts and supporting docs apart from materials required by expert disclosures and through depo examination; and
  3. New Pre-Trial Disclosures: witness and exhibits lists due as a matter of course 30 days before trial or as otherwise ordered by the court.

Expedited Actions Greatly Expanded

  1. Expedited rules now apply to suits up to $250k, excluding interest, statutory, or punitive damages and penalties, and AF’s and costs;
  2. Litigators must enter new relief statements to that effect under TRCP 47(c);
  3. Discovery in all expedited actions must be completed by 180 days (6 months) after initial disclosures are due, so roughly 7.5 months after service;
  4. Each party now has 20 hours (not 6) for depositions; and
  5. Still only 15 RFP, ROGS, and RFA.

You Can Run (But You Can't Hide)

  1. Taking effect one day before the new discovery rules, the Texas Supreme Court has attempted to modernize the rules governing the formal service of citations that initiate lawsuits and can lead to default judgment if left unanswered.
  2. If process servers cannot find the defendant in person, plaintiffs may soon file a motion requesting alternative service “in any other manner, including electronically by social media, email, or other technology, that the [process server’s] statement or other evidence shows will be reasonably effective to give the defendant notice of the suit.”
  3. That means courts may soon allow plaintiffs to post lawsuits on facebook, instagram, twitter, and other social media platforms if there is evidence the defendant regularly uses such accounts and will be likely to see a case has been filed against them.
  4. Plaintiffs should look up and save posts, comments, and direct messages showing a defendant’s regular use of social media as this may be required evidence for alternative service if all else fails.

As noted, these rules are effective in the new year. The amendments may be changed before January 1, 2021, in response to public comments. Written comments should be sent to rulescomments@txcourts.gov. The Court requests that comments be sent by December 1, 2020.

Endnotes