Sometimes life is best explained by a Will Ferrell character. As an example, the eloquent Ricky Bobby says it best: “I wanna go fast!” Effective March 1, 2013, the Texas Supreme Court introduced changes to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Among other things, the changes provide a new “expedited process” for the “prompt, efficient, and cost-effective resolution” of civil lawsuits. The “expedited actions process” can only be used if the plaintiff (or other party seeking damages) seeks money damages of less than $100,000 and cannot be used for injunctive relief. Also, it does not apply to all claims—for instance, medical malpractice claims.
Overall, the expedited process is an attempt to shorten the time it takes to dispose of cases worth less than $100,000. If a party opts in to the expedited process, it can expect a shorter discovery period and, overall, less discovery. The discovery period begins when the suit is filed and ends after only 180 days. Once discovery is complete, a party may request a trial date and the court must set a trial date within 90 days. The court can only grant two continuances of the trial date, and they must be within 60 days of the original trial date. Thus, a party could expect to go to trial no later than 11 months after filing suit.
Parties may opt out of the process if they choose and if they can make a showing of “good cause.” Good cause for removal would be anything from a defendant filing a counterclaim that seeks non-monetary relief to showing the court that the case is too complex for the expedited process, or even in cases in which a party needs an interpreter. Thus, the new process will apply to a fairly narrow—but common—set of cases.
For instance, oftentimes product manufacturers and distributors may be sued for manufacturing and selling a defective product that only caused property damage. These cases are ripe for the expedite actions process. Thus, if a manufacturer produces and sells a household product to a consumer in Texas and that product causes only minor bodily harm or property damage, it may be advantageous for both parties to opt in to the process. The manufacturer may desire to shorten the overall length of the lawsuit, streamline discovery, and ensure that damages are limited to $100,000 or less. The opt-in process may be attractive to plaintiffs as well, because it will increase the chances of a fast recovery, if any. Overall, the expedited actions process is a good move for all involved. At least in some cases, everyone can agree with a fictitious race car driver: faster is better.