Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, the Texas Supreme Court remained committed to justice, quickly adapted to holding remote proceedings, and even issued twenty-five percent more opinions than the prior fiscal year.
Of the 136 opinions issued in fiscal year 2020, sixty-seven were disposed of by unanimous opinion, thirty-two were per curiam, and twenty-nine were concurring and/or dissenting opinions.
At times, the docket itself reflected the unusual circumstances presented by the pandemic. For example, the Court issued a number of emergency orders extending appellate and other deadlines, suspending evictions, and permitting remote proceedings. The Court also was asked to weigh in on the constitutionality of modifications to election procedures in light of COVID-19.
Following the massive power outages in February 2021, the Court considered whether the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, Inc. is entitled to the protection of sovereign immunity and thus shielded from the flurry of lawsuits filed after the storm. Over a dissenting opinion of four justices, the Court avoided the hotly contested immunity question by dismissing the case on procedural grounds.
Recently, the Court issued several notable opinions on substantive matters. In In Re Allstate Indemnity Company, No. 20-0071, the Court settled the dispute over the standards for counter-affidavits served under Chapter 18 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and affirmatively held they are not subject to a relevance or reliability objection under Texas Rule of Evidence 702.
In a pair of opinions, the Court more precisely defined the scope of attorney immunity—expanding it outside of the litigation context but declining to extend it to comments made by attorneys to the media for publicity purposes. See Landry’s, Inc. v. Animal League Defense Fund, No. 19-0036; Haynes & Boone, LLC v. NFTD, LLC, No. 20-0066.
In In re K&L Auto Crushers, LLC, the Court expanded its 2018 decision in In re N. Cypress Med. Ctr. Operating Co. to personal injury lawsuits, holding that a plaintiff’s medical provider’s negotiated rates with private insurers and public-entity payors are relevant to the reasonableness of past medical expenses.
For more information about the Texas Supreme Court and its notable decisions, please register to attend the free CLE webinar on October 20, 2021, sponsored by Juris Medicus, LLC and presented by its outside counsel, Caroline Newman Small (CLE accreditation pending).