Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Adopt Significant Changes
New amendments to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure went into effect on January 1, 2021 with the goal of making cases more efficient and cost-effective. The most apparent changes regard document disclosure requirements and deadlines.
Essentially, the goal of the amendments was to align Texas disclosure procedures with Federal Rule 26. The modifications accomplish that goal by breaking down disclosure requirements into three categories: initial disclosures, pretrial disclosures, and testifying expert disclosures.
A party is not exempt from making disclosures simply because they have not fully investigated the case or because the other party hasn’t yet disclosed their information. There are no excuses for any parties to withhold relevant information.
Rule 194.2 details initial disclosures. This information must be offered within 30 days of the filing of the first answer. The only exception is if another time was set by an agreement or court order.
If a party was first served after the first answer was filed, they will have to make their initial disclosures within 30 days of being served. Again, exceptions are only made if another deadline was decided through an agreement or court order.
The initial disclosures must include the following content:
- The names of the parties involved
- The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of any other potential parties
- The legal theories and factual bases of the responding party’s defenses
- Computation of each category of damages claimed by the responding party, as well as the evidence that backs that computation
- The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone connected to the case, with a statement describing their connection
- A copy of information that the responding party can use to support their claims
- Any indemnity and insuring agreements described in Rule 192.3(f)
- Settlement agreements described in Rule 192.3(g)
- Witness statements described in Rule 192.3(h)
- Medical records and bills supporting allegations of physical or mental injury
- Medical records and bills obtained by virtue of an authorization furnished by the requesting party
- The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of anyone who may be a responsible third party
There are further instructions for disclosure based on the type of family law case at hand. Different suits require different additional information:
- Divorce or annulment: Parties must provide real estate documents, pensions, benefits, and retirement documents, insurance documents, and the most recent statements from all financial accounts.
- Child support or alimony: Parties must provide policies, statements, and summary descriptions for health and medical insurance coverage that is or would be available to the child or spouse, income tax returns from the previous two years, and the two most recent payroll check stubs.
The document outlines certain information that is exempt from initial disclosure. The court may, however, still request this information at a later time. This includes:
- Action for review on an administrative record
- Forfeiture action arising from a state statute
- Petition for habeas corpus
Under Rule 194.4, parties are required to file evidence that they may present at trial at least 30 days before the trial.
Testifying Expert Disclosures
Rule 194.3 requires parties to disclose all testifying expert information. This is covered in more detail in Rule 195 Discovery Regarding Testifying Expert Witnesses.
Rule 195.2 Schedule for Designating Experts sets two deadlines for electing experts. Parties seeking affirmative relief are required to designate testifying experts 90 days before the end of the discovery period. Other experts must be designated 60 days before the end of the discovery period.
In addition to disclosing their election of an expert, the parties will be required to provide information on the expert by the 90-day or 60-day deadline. Rule 195.5 Expert Disclosures and Reports requires disclosures of:
- The expert’s name, address, and phone number
- The topic the expert will testify on
- A brief summary of the expert’s opinions and impressions
- If the expert is retained by, employed by, or otherwise influenced by the responding party, they must also provide reports provided to the expert, the experts resume and bibliography, the expert’s qualifications, the expert’s previous experience as a trial expert, and a statement of the compensation paid for the expert’s study and testimony in the case
These amendments are intended to promote effective resolutions for cases filed in county courts with the amount in controversy not surpassing $250,000. While it speeds up the process, it requires each party to remain cognizant of important dates in their civil cases. The Law Firm of Johnson & Gaskill PLLC will help you navigate your case while remaining compliant with disclosure procedures and deadlines. Contact us for help with your case today.