If a Texas company has harmed you then you will need to follow certain specific steps to sue a business in a Texas court.
The process is highly formalized and complex.
However, in general, the process is divided into three distinct stages: pre-trial, trial, and post-trial.
In this guide, our Texas breach of contract attorneys will discuss only the pre-trial stage, helping you to initially understand how to sue a company in Texas.
Filing Your Lawsuit
This is the foundation of your case and can often prompt an out-of-court settlement. However, to trigger that potential you need to reach a certain threshold in your lawsuit. Therefore, begin by researching, drafting, and filing your lawsuit.
Research Your Lawsuit
In Texas, your claim is initiated with a “petition.”
The petition is a formal document that you file with the court that starts the lawsuit. To begin, your petition must identify the substantive law that the company (i.e. the defendant) violated. For example, if the defendant failed to pay for your plumbing services, then they potentially breached a contract.
For instance, you would need to prove that:
- There is a valid contract,
- You have performed your obligations under the contract,
- The defendant has not performed their obligations under the contract, and
- You have suffered damages.
After you have identified a valid claim against the defendant, you then need to check to see if you can bring your claim in time. This is called the statute of limitations.
In Texas, the most common statute of limitations period is two years. However, you should research to make sure that your claim doesn’t have a shorter or longer statute of limitations.
Drafting and Filing Your Petition
Since the petition is a formal court document, you need to draft it in a specific format and include the following:
- A succinct statement of the relevant facts of the case that support your claim, including what the defendant did to harm you. Note that you do not need to present evidence at this stage—just assert the facts as you understand them.
- The principal of law violated (e.g. breach of contract, etc.) and its elements.
- What relief you are seeking from the court (e.g. money damages, specific performance, etc.).
- The names and addresses of all the parties involved.
At this point, you need to know in what court to file your petition. This is called the proper jurisdiction for suing a business. In general, you file your petition with the court in the same county as the principal office of the defendant. Finally, you will need to pay a filing fee to the court. While fees vary from county to county, generally expect to pay approximately $200 in filing fees.
Serving The Defendant
After you file your petition, you must then ask the court to give notice to the defendant of your lawsuit. The court does this by serving the petition and a “citation” through a third party on the defendant. Note that you cannot serve the defendant yourself.
The citation generally states:
- Why the defendant is being sued;
- What is the legal basis for the lawsuit;
- What is the remedy (i.e. money damages, etc.); and
- That the defendant must respond and appear.
As you can see, filing your petition and serving the defendant is complex. Therefore, we encourage you to seek an experienced litigation attorney to represent you.
After Filing Your Lawsuit
After you file your petition and serve the petition and citation on the defendant, the obligation then moves to them to answer your petition. Note that the defendant’s response can raise a whole new set of procedures and decisions.
The Defendant’s Response
The defendant has a certain amount of time to respond to your petition.
As a response, the defendant can:
- Not respond, thus ignoring the petition and setting up a default judgment;
- Answer the petition; or
- Answer and file a counter-petition.
A counter-petition is a claim against you by the defendant that you then would have to answer. Assuming that the defendant answers but does not file a counter-petition, then the pretrial “discovery” stage begins.
This is when the parties get information from each other.
That information usually takes the form of:
- Interrogatories—written questions from one party to the other;
- Production of documents—the request to produce documents from one side to the other; and
- Depositions—the questioning under oath by one party of the other.
Discovery is complex, and frequently one party will object to discovery requests. To successfully navigate pretrial discovery, you must become familiar with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. Again, an experienced litigation attorney can help you navigate various aspects of discovery in suing a business in Texas. Once discovery is complete, your lawsuit enters its last pretrial stage of attempted settlement. If settlement negotiations fail, then your lawsuit will move to an actual trial.
Getting a Lawyer
Once you have filed your petition, the defendant has responded, and discovery is underway, you are in the thick of the lawsuit. At this point, it is necessary to have an in-depth knowledge of Texas court rules to successfully manage your lawsuit.
Those rules include:
- Rules of civil procedure governing discovery, motions, and other pretrial matters;
- Rules of evidence governing what is admissible at trial;
- Rules for how to preserve objections; and
- Rules for how to preserve issues for appeal.
If you are not familiar with these rules, you will not understand what is happening in your case and how to protect your interests.
Contact Us Today for Assistance
At Hunnicutt Law Group, we have highly experienced and skilled litigation attorneys who can sue or file a claim against a business for you. Even though your case is properly before a Texas court, you need experienced litigation attorneys to finish the job. Hunnicutt Law Group has decades of success and thoroughly understands how to sue a company in Texas.