House Bill 273’s Impact beyond Personal Injury Cases

March 5, 2012 by

House Bill 273’s Impact beyond Personal Injury CasesIn past blogs, I have focused on the impact of House Bill 273 on personal injury cases, but the Bill was not just confined to this area. Instead, it was intended to be a broader overhaul in litigation proceedings. For example, some of the “loser pays” modifications that almost went into effect would have allowed defendants in contract cases to recover Texas attorney fees, which is a big departure from the current system.  

 Changes to the Court’s Rulemaking Powers for More than Personal Injury Cases

 The Bill as it was signed into law has also made many changes that affect the rulemaking powers of the court. These changes affect all civil cases, not just personal injury cases, unless specifically excluded. For example, the Bill requires the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules to dismiss “causes of action that have no basis in law or fact on motion and without evidence.” In this case, the litigation costs, including Texas attorney fees, would be awarded to the prevailing party. And the Bill also requires the court to adopt rules to expedite civil action in cases under $100,000, excluding medical malpractice cases, family law cases, property law cases, and tax cases, and sets out new requirements for interlocutory appeals.

 Also, the new Bill did away with the sixty day allowance for a plaintiff to join a responsible third party if a defendant designated that party after the statute of limitations expired. Also, a defendant cannot designate a responsible third party after the statute of limitations if the defendant “failed to comply with its obligations, if any, to timely disclose that the person may be designated as a responsible third party under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.” This causes problems for both plaintiffs and defendants in cases which are filed close to the statute of limitations. It will mean that the plaintiff must sue any entity that the defendant designates, and the defendant will have less time to decide who to designate as a responsible third party when disclosures are due.

 This will discourage parties from trying to resolve the case out of court, since it will necessitate earlier filing of lawsuits, and since the language in the Bill about complying with obligations “to timely disclose that the person may be designated as a responsible third party” is vague, there will likely be more discovery and motion practices because the defendant will attempt to ensure that he or she does not fail to comply. 

 House Bill 273 shows that tort reform goes beyond personal injury cases and threatens to dramatically change most areas of civil law, affecting the rights of individuals and businesses to have their cases heard. 

 If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, contact Marc Whitehead, a board certified personal injury attorney in Houston, Texas or download our free ebook, Car & Truck Crashes, 10 Secrets Victims Should Know To Protect Their Rights.