Texas has specific procedural requirements that parties must adhere to when they proceed with a lawsuit. If these procedures are not followed and prescribed deadlines are ignored, it could result in your case being dismissed or leave you unable to get the compensation you deserve. Thus, hiring an experienced attorney is crucial when you decide to proceed with a lawsuit—especially someone who understands the ins and outs of Texas laws and procedures.
In a recent Supreme Court of Texas case, a plaintiff challenged a court order allowing the defendant in the dispute to designate an unknown person as a responsible third party. The plaintiff initially sued the defendant for negligently causing a chain-reaction car accident that occurred when a truck driver employed by the defendant rear-ended the truck behind the plaintiff. The defendant initially filed an answer asserting a general denial of responsibility and that the plaintiff was comparatively responsible for causing the accident. Then, 135 days later, the defendant filed a motion to designate an unknown person, referred to as “John Doe” as a responsible third party, arguing that John Doe negligently caused the accident. Although the plaintiff objected to the defendant’s filing, the trial court allowed the defendant to designate John Doe as an unknown responsible party in an amended answer.
More than two years later, the defendant filed its amended original answer, which still did not include allegations of John Doe’s responsibility. The plaintiff objected, stating that the defendant failed to meet the procedural requirements necessary to designate responsibility to John Doe since it was not in the amended complaint the defendant filed. In response, the defendant filed a second amended answer, this time including allegations stating that John Doe caused the accident. The trial court then denied the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion, and the plaintiff filed for relief with the Supreme Court of Texas.
The Supreme Court of Texas found that the lower court abused its discretion when it granted the defendant the ability to designate John Doe as an unknown responsible party. Because the defendant filed an amended answer more than two years and eight months after it filed its original answer and then in its second amended answer failed to describe specific allegations of the unknown responsible party, it was not timely and did not satisfy procedural requirements. Furthermore, the defendant did not allege that John Doe committed a criminal act or describe any of John Doe’s identifying characteristics. For this reason, the Supreme Court found that the lower court abused its discretion and directed it to vacate its order allowing the defendant to designate John Doe as an unknown responsible third party.
In Texas, defendants who plan to designate an unknown person as a responsible third party must do so no later than 60 days after the filing of the defendant’s original answer. The defendant must also allege in their answer that the unknown person committed a criminal act that was a cause of the loss or injury that is the subject of the lawsuit at hand. If the defendant meets these procedural requirements and has included identifying characteristics and claimed that the act committed was criminal, then the court can grant the defendant’s request; otherwise, it must be denied.
Do You Need a Texas Personal Injury Attorney?
If you or someone you know has been recently injured in a Texas car accident, contact the attorneys at Carabin Shaw today. Our team has decades of experience navigating the Texas legal system and understands what is required for a successful suit when it comes to adhering to state-specific procedures and requirements. To schedule a free consultation today, contact us at 800-862-1260.