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Rhoades v. Gossman

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

January 4, 2018

TOMMY RHOADES, et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
ANTHONY GROSSMAN, et al. Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this removed action, plaintiffs Tommy Rhoades and Sharon Rhoades (the “Rhoades”) move the court to determine the applicability of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 18.001 (West 2015). For the reasons explained, the court concludes that § 18.001 applies in this case, and it sets deadlines for filing affidavits and controverting affidavits under § 18.001.[1]

         I

         This is a suit by the Rhoades to recover from defendants Anthony Grossman (“Grossman”) and Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc. for injuries they sustained when Grossman rear-ended the Rhoades's vehicle. The Rhoades originally sued defendants in Texas state court, alleging negligence claims under Texas law against both defendants. Defendants removed the case to this court based on diversity jurisdiction. The Rhoades now seek a determination that Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 18.001 applies in this case. Defendants oppose the motion, contending that § 18.001 does not apply because it is a procedural statute and directly conflicts with the Federal Rules of Evidence.

         II

         Under Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938), federal courts sitting in diversity apply state substantive law and federal procedural law. See Gasperini v. Ctr. for Humanities, Inc., 518 U.S. 415, 427 (1996). Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 18.001(b) provides:

Unless a controverting affidavit is served as provided by this section, an affidavit that the amount a person charged for a service was reasonable at the time and place that the service was provided and that the service was necessary is sufficient evidence to support a finding of fact by judge or jury that the amount charged was reasonable or that the service was necessary.

         Based on the current state of the law, the court concludes that § 18.001(b) is a substantive provision of Texas law that applies in this case. See, e.g., Gorman v. ESA Mgmt., LLC, 2018 WL____, at * ___, No. 3:17-CV-0792-D, at *2-3 (N.D. Tex. Jan. 4, 2018) (Fitzwater, J.); Butler v. United States, No. 3:15-CV-2969-M, at *3 (N.D. Tex. June 2, 2017) (Lynn, C.J.) (order) (overruling objections to plaintiff's exhibits and holding that § 18.001(b) applied in Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) case governed by state substantive law); Bowman v. Cheeseman, LLC, 2014 WL 11515575, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 9, 2014) (Godbey, J.) (declining to strike § 18.001 affidavits and noting that Texas courts have indicated that § 18.001 “is more properly understood as a rule of sufficiency of the evidence than as a rule of evidence admissibility.”); Rahimi v. United States, 474 F.Supp.2d 825, 829 (N.D. Tex. 2006) (Sanderson, J.) (“Were the court to find that section 18.001 embodies only state procedural law, it would deprive Plaintiff of means to avoid the significantly more expensive and time-consuming alternatives to proving damages which would otherwise be available in a personal injury action brought in a Texas state court.”); but see Holland v. United States, No. 3:14-CV-3780, at *2 (N.D. Tex. July 21, 2016) (Lindsay, J.) (order) (granting motion to strike affidavits in FTCA case, and stating that “[s]ince Rahimi, however, the Texas Supreme Court has explicitly characterized Section 18.001 as ‘purely procedural, '” and concluding that § 18.001(b) did not apply in FTCA case governed by state substantive law (quoting Haygood v. De Escabedo, 356 S.W.3d 390, 397 (Tex. 2011))).

         To the extent that § 18.001(d) imposes deadlines for filing affidavits and controverting affidavits, [2] however, these provisions are clearly procedural, and this court is not bound to follow them. See, e.g., Davis v. Dallas Cnty., Tex., 2007 WL 2301585, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Aug. 10, 2007) (Fitzwater, J.) (addressing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 33.004) (“Nor does the court ‘suggest that the provisions of § 33.004 that impose time limitations on seeking leave or objecting to motions for leave would apply in a diversity case to circumvent a scheduling order that imposes other deadlines.'” (quoting Womack v. Home Depot USA, Inc., 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 39449, at *2-3 (N.D. Tex. Apr. 14, 2006) (Fitzwater, J.) (order))). Accordingly, the court orders that the Rhoades file any § 18.001 affidavit by the deadline for completing discovery. Defendants must file any controverting affidavit within 28 days of the date the Rhoades file the § 18.001 affidavit being controverted.

         The Rhoades's motion to determine the applicability of Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 18.001 is granted to the extent the court concludes that § 18.001(b) applies in this case and sets deadlines for complying with the procedure under § 18.001.

         SO ORDERED.

---------

Notes:

[1] Under § 205(a)(5) of the E-Government Act of 2002 and the definition of “written opinion” adopted by the Judicial Conference of the United States, this is a “written opinion[] issued by the court” because it “sets forth a reasoned explanation for [the] court's decision.” It has been written, however, primarily for the parties, to decide issues ...


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