The Texas Supreme Court just announced sweeping new rules which cut back on how lawsuits seeking damages under $100,000.00 are conducted here in the Tarrant County courts and elsewhere across the state.
I’ve been practicing law for about 33 years and have never seen both the plaintiff’s and defense trial bars so opposed to a judicial proposal.
Why? For starters, the Supreme Court drastically limited the discovery of pre-trial facts and the length, conduct, and cost of mediations and trials.
Then it required that the plaintiff’s attorney calculate how much damage a jury will award at the very beginning of the case, which is usually difficult to ascertain at that stage. For example, his client may need surgery, or a second surgery, and incur additional medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. A defendant may be found guilty later on of DWI, or in a case I am just settling this week, his third DWI, which greatly enhanced the value of the lawsuit. Worse, the injured party will now lose any amount that the jury awards over $100,000.
Then it required an onerous new form to be completed by medical providers that asks them to list the amounts of money paid by health insurance companies and the net bill in order to decrease the total medical bills that a jury will know about before it awards damages.
The Court even hampered the ability of a plaintiff to file a lawsuit without a defendant immediately moving to dismiss it and allowing the court broad discretion to make a ruling. It is not clear if a plaintiff filing for more than $100,000 damages in a relatively small case will cause the lawsuit to be dismissed. Then, if the plaintiff loses, he will have to pay thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and costs to the defendant’s attorney for the first time ever. That’s a chilling prospect for any one.
The Supreme Court continues to hammer away at the constitutional right to trial, as I have blogged about on many occasions.
The rules affect lawsuits filed on or after March 1st. We are going through our cases and determining which suits should be filed before that date.
The full text of the new rules is here.