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In re Nueces Hospitality GP, LLC

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

November 14, 2017

IN RE NUECES HOSPITALITY GP, LLC AND NUECES HOSPITALITY, LP

         On Petition for Writ of Mandamus

          Before Justices Rodriguez, Contreras, and Benavides

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NELDA V. RODRIGUEZ Justice. [1]

         Through this original proceeding, relators Nueces Hospitality GP LLC and Nueces Hospitality LP seek to set aside a sanction order signed on July 11, 2017 which prohibits them from alleging affirmative defenses.[2] We conditionally grant mandamus relief.

         I. Background

         On October 26, 2016, real party in interest Myrtle Lee Bryant brought suit against relators and Choice Hotels International, Inc. for injuries sustained when she slipped and fell while working in the course of her employment. According to her original petition, she was working in the housekeeping department of the Comfort Suites Central Hotel in Corpus Christi, Texas, when she slipped and fell on a puddle of water in the hotel hallway. She brought suit against relators on grounds that they owned or controlled the hotel and alleged claims against them for premises liability, negligence, and joint enterprise or joint venture.

         On May 1, 2017, the trial court issued an "agreed docket control order" setting the case for a jury trial on January 8, 2018. The docket control order set the deadlines for the completion of discovery and the amendment of pleadings as November 24, 2017 for Bryant and December 9, 2017 for relators.

         On or about May 20, 2017, Bryant filed a combined motion to compel and motion for sanctions against relators which recounts the following events. On November 7, 2016, Bryant served her original petition and requests for disclosure on relators. She thereafter agreed to a thirty-day extension for relators to respond to the petition. On January 23, 2017, relators filed an answer to the lawsuit, but did not respond to the requests for disclosure. On March 29, 2017, Bryant provided relators an extension of time allowing them an additional thirty days to respond to all outstanding discovery "in order to give [relators' insurance carrier] an opportunity to perform a coverage review." On May 1, 2017, relators provided Bryant with the responses to some discovery requests but did not answer the requests for disclosure. Bryant addressed this issue with relators and was told that she would receive the responses to her requests for disclosure during the week of May 8, 2017. Nevertheless, relators did not provide responses to Bryant's requests for disclosure.

         In her motion to compel and for sanctions, Bryant contended that relators "failed to timely disclose their affirmative defenses and evidence in support thereof, " they lacked good cause to excuse this failure, and the delay had unfairly prejudiced her:

After months of extensions, the Nueces Hospitality Defendants are now representing to Plaintiff that they have evidence (which has not been produced) to support workers' compensation coverage as an affirmative defense (the basis of which has not been disclosed) that would bar Plaintiff's claims in their entirety . . . . The Nueces Hospitality Defendants are attempting to use this untimely and previously undisclosed affirmative defense to leverage Plaintiff into dismissing her claims without her actually having an opportunity to review supporting documentation.
Rule 194.2(c) requires Defendants to disclose the legal theories and general factual bases for their defenses, including affirmative defenses such as workers' compensation coverage. The Nueces Hospitality
Defendants have unquestionably failed to timely disclose this information to Plaintiff. Plaintiff, therefore, has been unable to conduct discovery into these affirmative defenses and has been prejudiced by the Nueces Hospitality Defendants continuing to withhold this information.
Pursuant to Rule 193.6(a), the Nueces Hospitality Defendants should be prohibited from raising any affirmative defenses because no such defenses were alleged in their answer or in ...

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