TCJL has filed an amicus curiae brief with the Texas Supreme Court in a second case in which a defendant was denied discovery of relevant evidence of the reasonableness of medical bills. Similar to In re K&L Auto Crushers LLC (No. 19-1022), in which TCJL filed a brief last December, this case arises from a negligence/premises liability lawsuit brought by nearly 60 plaintiffs subsequent to a fire at Exxon Mobil’s Baytown Olefins refinery. ExxonMobil sent deposition notices and subpoenas duces tecum to various third-party medical providers seeking discovery of the amounts they had accepted as payment for similarly-situated patients for the same services over a similar period of time. The discovery is both relevant and necessary for ExxonMobil to assess the reasonableness of the past medical expenses claimed by the plaintiffs and to comply with §41.0105, CPRC, the “paid or incurred” rule adopted by the Legislature in 2003. As in K&L Auto Crushers, however, a Harris County trial court denied ExxonMobil’s motion to enforce the discovery and granted motions for protection filed by the plaintiffs and certain of the providers. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston denied ExxonMobil’s petition for writ of mandamus in a per curiam opinion, although one of the justices indicated he would have granted ExxonMobil’s motion to TCJL the trial date and would have requested a response to the petition.
TCJL’s brief takes the arguments of our previous brief one step further to question whether the trial court’s refusal to grant discovery deprives a defendant of the right to due process of law and a fair and impartial jury trial. As we argue in the brief, “[T]rial judges have the grave responsibility of acting as first-line guarantors of every citizen’s right to a fair and impartial trial. By refusing relevant discovery, this trial judge has put a very heavy finger on the scale of justice in this case and exposed a civil defendant to potential liability for excessive damages not actually incurred by the claimants. . .These actions undermine our system of justice and cannot be permitted to stand.”
The Court has received full briefing in a third, similar case, In re Atkins Brothers Equipment, Inc. (No. 20-0344). Since K&L Auto Crushers was filed first, however, the Court may decide the controlling issues in that case.