Texas Supreme Court to Consider What Discovery is Allowed re Defendant's Net Worth

An issue that comes up in a high percentage of cases I handle is the discoverability of Defendant's net worth.  In employment litigation, such information is generally only relevant to the issue of punitive damages.  Naturally, Defendants would prefer to forego turning over sensitive financial data such as this until after a Plaintiff has proven that he or she is entitled to punitive damages in a case.

The problem of course is that putting off discovery until during a trial is logistically problematic.  The Defendant certainly does not wish to wait until trial to gather sensitive medical information regarding the Plaintiff.  This wouldn't make very much sense.  In the same way, waiting to conduct discovery regarding a relevant issue like Defendant's net worth doesn't make any sense to the plaintiff.

The answer to this question (in Texas anyway) may be coming forthwith.  The Texas Supreme Court has agreed to hear oral arguments in a mandamus action addressing this very issue.  As framed in the mandamus petition, the issue is what pleading or initial proof is required before a plaintiff can get discovery of a defendant’s net worth.

The relator's theory in this case is that — with the greater restrictions placed on punitive damages over the years — the corresponding discovery should also be reined in to prevent abuse.

 

Case info: In re Mark A. Jacobs, M.D., Debra C. Gunn, M.D. and Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates, P.A., No. 09-0942