Last Minute Changes to the Expedited Trial Rules in Response to Comments

After receiving hundreds of public comments regarding the expedited trial rules, the Texas Supreme Court made some changes to the Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 169 (final version here).

Some of the comments criticized the draft rules’ mandatory nature and opposed the prohibition of alternative dispute resolution in expedited actions; other comments raised concerns with the limits on discovery and trial time.  (Previous coverage at The New Expedited Trial Rules: What to Expect).

The Texas Supreme Court kept the mandatory nature of the rules, but made the following changes to TRCP 169 before giving its final approval:

1.  Lawsuits filed in Justice Courts are now exempt from the expedited trial procedure.

2.  The courts can continue an expedited lawsuit twice, not to exceed 60 days.

3.  The trial time has increased from 5 to 8 hours per side, and the parties can extend that time up to a maximum of 12 hours per side for good cause.

4.  The judges can now refer cases to an alternative dispute resolution (ADR) procedure unless the parties have agreed not to engage in ADR.   The ADR cannot exceed a half-day in length, and its cost cannot exceed twice the amount of the applicable civil filing fees.  It must be done at least 60 days before trial.

5.  Finally, in comments to TRCP 169, the Texas Supreme Court offered more guidance on the factors that a judge should consider in determining whether a good cause exists for removal of a case from the expedited process, including:

a.   whether there are multiple claimants seeking damages against the same defendant totaling more than $100,000;

b.   whether a defendant’s counterclaim exceeds $100,000; and

c.   the number of parties and witnesses, the complexity of the legal and factual issues, and whether an interpreter is necessary.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht explained that the Court will monitor statistics gathered by the Texas Office of Court Administration about the cases that go to trial under the expedited trial rules, and might amend the rules in the future depending on what the statistics show about their effectiveness.

For more information, contact Leiza Dolghih.

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