New Rules of Procedure Effective March 1st, 2013

The January blog post was about the new Texas Rules of Civil Procedure for dismissal of baseless lawsuits and expedited cases.  These rules became effective March 1, 2013.  After the period for public comment, slight modifications were made to the rules.

For dismissal of baseless lawsuits, Rule 91a Dismissal of Baseless Causes of Action, is now in effect.  Rule 91a governs all community association litigation, as only Family Code matters and statutory inmate claims are excluded from the rule’s application.   Modifications to Rule 91a include Rule 91a.5 Effect of Nonsuit or Amendment; Withdrawal of Motion.  Rule 91a.5 as modified allows a party until three days before a Rule 91a hearing to nonsuit a challenged cause of action and, therefore, prevent the court from ruling on a motion to dismiss.  Further, Rule 91a.5 as modified allows a party until three days before the hearing to amend a challenged cause of action.  Rule 91a.7 Award of Costs and Attorney Fees Required, was modified to clarify that the court must consider evidence of costs and fees in determining the award to the prevailing party on the motion to dismiss a baseless cause of action.

For expedited actions, New Rule 169 expressly does not apply to Property Code claims.  As mentioned in the January blog post, association versus owner (and owner versus association) claims under the Texas Property Code are excluded, as are Texas Property Code Section 82.103 officer and director claims for fiduciary liability under the Texas Uniform Condominium Act.  Non-Property Code matters involving $100,000 in damages or less are governed by new Rule 169, including vendor or other third party disputes.  Additionally, new Rule 169 governs officer and director claims against subdivision association board members, and pre-January 1, 1994 condominium board members, alleging $100,000 in damages or less, as there is no Property Code provision addressing such claims.  Any lawsuits for more than $100,000 do not fall within the parameters of Rule 169.

Modifications to Rule 169 include the alternative dispute resolution requirement.  As modified, unless the parties have agreed to not participate in mediation, a court may refer a case to mediation one time for a half-day, for a cost not to exceed twice the amount of the lawsuit filing fees.  Any mediation must be completed no later than 60 days before the initial trial setting.  The modified Rule allows the court to continue the trial date only twice, and not to exceed a total of 60 days.  Finally, modified Rule 169 allows each party eight hours for trial, with an option to file a motion asking the court for an extension up to twelve hours per side.

View the rules in their entirety here: http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/MiscDocket/13/13902200.pdf