The Texas Supreme Court has adopted several rule changes that significantly affect civil litigation. New Rule 91a permits the filing of a motion to dismiss an action that lacks a basis in law or fact.
An action lacks a basis in law if the pleaded facts and reasonable inferences drawn from them do not entitle a claimant to the relief sought. An action lacks a reasonable basis in fact if no reasonable person could believe the pleaded facts. The new rule, similar to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), allows a dismissal “on the pleadings” for the first time in Texas. The motion must be filed within 60 days of the pleading that is attacked and the court must determine the motion within 45 days.
The prevailing party is entitled to recover its attorneys’ fees connected with the motion.
The court also adopted new rules regarding civil cases with less than $100,000 in controversy. Such cases will be subject to expedited discovery procedures and will be entitled to a trial setting within 90 days of the completion of the discovery period. Unless required by contract, parties to these expedited cases may not be compelled to participate in alternative dispute resolution. Trial time will be generally restricted to five hours per side.
In order to implement the new procedure, all claimants will have to provide an estimate of the total amount claimed in the initial pleading. The estimates are to be stated in ranges of less than $100,000, $100,000-$500,000, $500,000 to $1 million, and more than $1 million.
The rule changes are scheduled to go into effect on March 1, 2013. They may be amended before that date.