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In re Cagle

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

August 27, 2019

IN RE ASHTON LEE CAGLE, Relator

          ORIGINAL PROCEEDING WRIT OF MANDAMUS 113th District Court Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 2018-82202

          Panel consists of Justices Wise, Jewell, and Hassan.

          OPINION

          MEAGAN HASSAN JUSTICE

         On July 9, 2019, relator Ashton Lee Cagle ("Relator") filed a petition for writ of mandamus in this court. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. § 22.221 (Vernon Supp. 2018); see also Tex. R. App. P. 52. In the petition, Relator asks this court to compel the Honorable Rabeea Sultan Collier, presiding judge of the 113th District Court of Harris County, to: (1) vacate her orders denying Relator's requests to withdraw certain deemed admissions and (2) permit Relator to withdraw deemed admissions numbers 1-5, 7-15, 17-18, 20, 22-36, 41, and 43. Because the trial court abused its discretion by denying Relator's requests to withdraw these admissions, we conditionally grant relief.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Cristian Pioquinto ("Plaintiff") alleges she was injured in an automobile accident with Relator. Plaintiff filed suit against Relator for negligence and against Lisa Cagle (Relator's mother) for negligent entrustment of the vehicle.

         Relator was served with Plaintiff's original petition and citation on December 8, 2018. The petition was accompanied by requests for disclosure, interrogatories, requests for production, and forty-four (44) requests for admission. The responses to the requests for admission were due within fifty (50) days (January 28, 2019).

         Relator, through counsel retained by his insurer, untimely served responses denying most of the requests for admission on March 25, 2019. Because Relator's response was not timely served, the requests were considered admitted without the necessity of a court order. Tex.R.Civ.P. 198.2(c).

         Relator filed a motion to withdraw deemed admissions, which the trial court denied by written order on May 8, 2019.

         Relator then filed a motion to reconsider, supported by the affidavits of Relator and his legal counsel, Nichole Wooten. Relator's affidavit states:

On December 8, 2018, I was served with a copy of Plaintiff's Original Petition, Plaintiff's Request for Disclosure, Plaintiff's First Request for Production, Plaintiff's First Set of Interrogatories, and Plaintiff's First Request for Admissions. At the time I was served with the lawsuit, I was 18 years old and unfamiliar with the civil litigation process. Additionally, I was unaware of the time deadlines associated with the documents I received or how it would affect my case going forward. During this time period, I was living with my brother Ein Cagle because my mother had recently passed away. Because I was unsure about what to do, I spoke with my grandfather Rusty Spencer. My grandfather advised me that he would take care of the legal documents that I received. After speaking with my grandfather, I took no further actions.
In February 2019, my uncle, Paul Stanton, contacted me and advised that State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") was trying to reach me regarding the lawsuit. He instructed me to give the legal paperwork to my State Farm agent, which I did immediately. Thereafter, I spoke with a State Farm representative, who advised me that I could request a defense be provided on my behalf. As a result, I immediately requested State Farm obtain legal representation to defend my interest in this case.
Once I understood my options and the process, I quickly acted. My failure to respond to Plaintiff's discovery requests was not the result of conscious indifference, but due to ...

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