Many times our clients are sued in Texas state court with no legal basis. Then, they spend months and thousands of dollars of legal fees defending the case before a motion for summary judgment can be filed and the case can be thrown out. Now, defendants have a new option to do this immediately after the case is filed.
In 2013, the Texas Supreme Court created Rule 91(a) Dismissal of Baseless Causes of Action. This rule provides, for the first time, that parties can file a motion to dismiss a claim that is brought against them without legal basis and requires the trial court to rule on the motion. Parties in federal lawsuits have always had the power to dismiss a case that has no legal basis at the very beginning. Now, a similar procedure is in place in Texas state courts. While not the same as the federal procedure, it has similar characteristics. The motion must be filed within 60 days of being sued and it has a deadline for the judge to decide. The motion must allege that the claim cannot be brought legally. The court may not consider any evidence. Finally, the court must order the losing party to pay the winning party’s attorney’s fees for bringing or resisting the motion.
While the motion to dismiss procedure is another tool in the tool kit of a defendant who has been wrongfully sued, it is not one that should be used in every case. In cases where the allegations are legally correct, but a fact question remains whether the defendant is liable, a motion to dismiss will not be successful. A motion to dismiss may be granted in a negligence case when there is no legal duty owed by the defendant. A motion to dismiss may also be granted if a contractual provision controls. Despite the benefits of the new procedure, there are dangers. Even if the defendant has a good legal argument, if the court chooses not to grant the motion to dismiss, the defendant has to pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees for responding to the motion.
In sum, Rule 91(a) is a helpful tool for defendants, but should be exercised with caution.
If you have a question about how your case can be disposed of quickly, contact Jim Clancy or the other Litigation Attorneys at Branscomb, P.C. for our creative ideas on getting your lawsuit resolved quickly and favorably.
For more information on this topic, please email Jim Clancy or call him at (361) 886-3800.