12.15.17

This week, the Supreme Court of Texas issued eight opinions and two grants. Significantly, in one of these opinions, the Court addressed whether a trial court has the discretion to deny a timely filed motion to designate responsible third parties without an opportunity to replead.

The In re Frank Coppola and Bridget Coppola case is a mandamus petition arising from a tort suit involving the financing and sale of a property. Specifically, the Coppolas financed the sale of land to Nancy Adams for development. However, Ms. Adams claims the Coppolas mispresented the property rendering it unusable for her purposes. Seventy-six days before the trial setting, the Coppolas moved for leave to designate Ms. Adams's transactional attorneys as responsible third parties. Ms. Adam's objected to the motion on various grounds, including that the motion was untimely as it had not been filed more than 60 days before the initial trial setting, and the trial court denied the motion without granting leave to replead. Subsequently, the court of appeals denied mandamus relief.

The Texas Supreme Court first determined that the Coppolas' motion for leave was timely because nothing in Chapter 33 indicates that the legislature intended the phrase "the trial date" to be limited to an initial trial setting. Because the motion was timely, the Court next concluded that the trial court lacked discretion to deny the motion to designate without affording the Coppolas an opportunity to replead to correct any pleading deficiency. The Court also explicitly held "that, ordinarily, a relator need only establish a trial court's abuse of discretion to demonstrate entitlement to mandamus relief with regard to a trial court's denial of a timely-filed section 33.004(a) motion."