Texas Attys Call For 'Statewide, Uniform' COVID-19 Extensions

By Hailey Konnath
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Law360 (March 30, 2020, 9:46 PM EDT) -- A long list of Texas bar associations and other attorney groups have urged the Lone Star State's Supreme Court to standardize statute of limitations extensions statewide in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, taking issue with an emergency order that allows different rules for all 254 counties.

In a letter sent to the Texas Supreme Court, the leaders of nine lawyers' groups — including the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Association of Defense Counsel and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association — proposed language for "a statewide, uniform, non-permissive order from the court tolling limitations during this unprecedented national emergency."

"The below signed group of association presidents agree a clear, non-permissive order relating to the statute of limitations from the Texas Supreme Court would benefit parties and the entire bar," they said.

A Texas Supreme Court spokesperson told Law360 on Monday that the court will act on the attorneys' request Tuesday. 

On March 13, the court issued its first emergency order on COVID-19, stating that "all courts in Texas may extend the statute of limitations" until a month after the governor's state of disaster has been lifted.

But the use of the term "may" suggests there could be various applications or enforcement of the statute of limitations in the different counties, the groups said Friday. That permissiveness "leaves courts, the bar, and parties with no understanding of how to address the potentially dispositive issue of limitations that are arising while the nation is in this moment of unprecedented crisis," they said in the letter.

The groups posited two options for phrasing a statewide statute of limitations extension, though they deferred to the court for "a final analysis of the best language."

Houston attorney Jim Perdue Jr. organized the effort via email, he said in a memo to Texas Supreme Court clerk Blake Hawthorne and rules attorney Jaclyn Daumerie.

"[W]e acknowledged there may be questions an order from the court cannot fully answer, but nevertheless, given the extraordinary circumstances, we still recommend action," he said.

Perdue said the suggested language is based on orders he read from other states.

"I hope the court will consider this request as well founded, with broad support in the bar, and offered in the hopes that practices can be helped by this clarification in these quite challenging times," he said.

--Editing by Daniel King.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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