Section 33.004 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code sets forth the requirements for designating responsible third parties (RTPs) in Texas. There are different requirements for designating a known RTP and an unknown RTP. Although it can be easy to overlook the differences, failing to comply with the relevant requirements can be detrimental. Therefore, this two-part blog series summarizes the key requirements for designating known and unknown RTPs under Section 33.004.
First, known RTPs.
Motion for Leave. To designate a known person (or entity) as a RTP, a defendant must file a motion for leave to designate that person as a RTP. “Responsible third party” means any person who is alleged to have caused or contributed to causing in any way the harm for which recovery of damages is sought, whether by negligent act or omission, by defective or unreasonably dangerous product, by other conduct or activity that violates an applicable legal standard, or by any combination of these.
Fair Notice. The defendant must plead sufficient facts concerning the alleged responsibility of the RTP to satisfy the pleading requirement of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. That is, the motion must meet the fair-notice standard, which simply requires that “a party can ascertain from the pleading the nature, basic issues, and type of evidence that might be relevant to the controversy.”
Deadline. The motion for leave must be filed on or before the 60th day before the trial date unless the court finds good cause.
Disclosure obligations. A person can be designated as a RTP after the applicable limitations period if the defendant complied with its obligations, if any, to timely disclose that person as a potential RTP.
Key takeaways for designating a known RTP:
1. Promptly disclose potential RTPs in conjunction with the required initial disclosures under Rule 194.2.
2. When preparing the motion for leave, be sure to plead sufficient facts to support allegations that the RTP caused or contributed to cause the harm at issue by negligent act or omission, defective or unreasonably dangerous product, other illegal conduct or activity, or any combination of these.
3. File the motion for leave on or before the 60th day before trial.
Next, in this two-blog series, the key requirements for designating unknown RTPs will be discussed.