Effective March 1, the Texas Supreme Court enacted a new “expedited actions” procedure, under Rule 169 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. It provides a means for newly filed cases with claimants seeking less than $100,000 (inclusive of all damages, costs, and attorneys’ fees) to resolve their cases more quickly and with less expense.
The new procedure provides for earlier trial dates (nine months after discovery is commenced), a shortened trial process (eight hours per side to present all evidence and argument), and a shortened discovery process (depositions totaling no more than six hours per side, and limitations on the number of written discovery requests).
The process is mandatory for cases in which each claimant seeks less than $100,000, but excludes family law, tax, property, and medical liability cases. Courts may allow a case in which the claimants seek less than $100,000 to be excluded from the “expedited actions” process upon a showing of “good cause,” after considering the number of parties and witnesses, the complexity of legal and factual issues, the aggregate claims against one defendant, and the relief sought by counterclaim, among other factors. The court may order mediation, with a limitation on the fees and amount of mediation time (half-day), although the parties can agree not to mediate, or agree to conduct a more expansive mediation.
Because it allows the court to grant no more than two trial date continuances (extending the trial date by no more than 60 days), the new “expedited actions” procedure may create a new class of “preferentially set” cases on each court’s trial docket, which may affect the ability of larger cases to be reached on a given court docket. Only time will tell.
Cases filed under Rule 169 should see trial settings beginning in early 2014.