When it comes to civil courts in Texas, the theme for 2013 was “fast-tracking.” The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure saw a number of changes related to triaging and expediting low-dollar controversies and eliminating “frivolous” cases early in the litigation process. While limiting requests for production and depositions in cases under $100,000 is all well and good, civil courts in Texas face much greater problems on a day-to-day basis.
One such problem is the underutilization of technology. Before 2014, email didn’t exist as far as the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure were concerned, electronic filing by fax was the equivalent of placing an envelope in the mail, and FedEx was a great way to send birthday gifts, but an unacceptable way to send discovery requests. But a new day has dawned, and 2014 is upon us…
The theme for Texas courts in 2014 is “upgrading”—bringing the courts into the 21st century through judicial mandate. The rules go into effect January 1, and they will impact your practice immediately. So without further ado, let’s take a look at the new rules (the order adopting the amendments can be found here):
Three-Day Response Extension Only Applies to Mailed Documents
Under the new rules, the three-day extension for response deadlines under Rule 4 only applies to mailed documents. It does not apply to documents served by fax anymore. It also does not apply to documents sent by UPS, FedEx, or another commercial delivery service. So, for example, motions for summary judgment served by fax (before 5:00 p.m.) or FedEx can be sent 21 days before the hearing, instead of 24.
Service by Email and Commercial Delivery Service
New Rule 21a allows parties to serve documents by email and commercial delivery service (e.g., FedEx and UPS). Documents served by commercial delivery service are deemed served upon deposit with the delivery service. The Rule doesn’t say when service by email is complete.
Email Addresses in Signature Blocks
Under new Rules 21(f)(2) and 57, pleadings and documents that are electronically filed must contain the attorney’s email address.
Redaction of Home Addresses and Other Sensitive Data
Under new Rule 21c, a party cannot file a document without redacting any sensitive data, unless the sensitive data must be included by statute, court rule, or administrative regulation. “Sensitive data” includes driver’s license numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, and home addresses (among other things).
While these Rules seem straightforward, there are pitfalls awaiting unsuspecting litigators. For example, in 2013, you had 33 days to respond to discovery requests sent by fax. Now, in 2014, you have 30, and if you inadvertently calendar the old response deadline, you waive your objections or deem the admissions. Same for discovery received via FedEx. Very troublesome indeed…
But fortunately for you, you began your 2014 with a quick read of these revised rules, and now you won’t begin the New Year with deemed admissions because you miscalendared a deadline. Happy New Year from TexAppBlog!!
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