Court Order to Freeze on Discovery In Texas

There are two cases in which the freezing of discovery was reversible error and one case in which the error was held harmless. Compare General Electric Co. v. Salinas, 861 S.W.2d 20 (Tex.App.--Corpus Christi 1993, no writ), and Firestone v. Claycombe & King, 875 S.W.2d 727 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1994, writ denied), with K.C. Roofing, 940 S.W.2d at 379. In Salinas, the court held it was an abuse of discretion for the trial court to arbitrarily freeze discovery, without notice to the parties. 861 S.W.2d at 23. The trial court's order freezing discovery was issued after the initial trial setting, at which time the defendants announced not ready for trial, and moved for a continuance based on a need for additional discovery. The trial court denied the continuance, reset the case for trial, and ordered the freeze on discovery. Salinas, 861 S.W.2d at 22. On appeal, the Salinas court reasoned that the order freezing discovery was not authorized by the Rules of Civil Procedure--it was not an authorized sanctions order under Rule 215, it was not a docket control order entered pursuant to a discovery schedule established at a pretrial conference under Rule 166(c), and it could not be characterized as a protective order under Rule 166b(5). Salinas, 861 S.W.2d at 23. Similarly, the Firestone court found an abuse of discretion when the trial court sua sponte ordered a freeze on discovery. 875 S.W.2d at 729. the trial court had set the case for trial on March 11, at which time Firestone appeared and announced it was not ready for trial. Id. at 728. The trial court denied Firestone's motion for continuance, rescheduled the case for trial, and froze discovery, indicating that no party would be permitted to supplement or otherwise modify the existing discovery. Id. However, on March 20, the trial court issued a new scheduling notice that included an April 20 discovery completion date. Id. When Firestone attempted to supplement discovery, upon the objection and motion of the opposing party, the trial court withdrew its March 20 scheduling notice and ruled that the parties could not supplement discovery. Id. On appeal, the court held that the trial court's initial order freezing discovery was an abuse of discretion because it was entered sua sponte, without notice to the parties or a hearing. 875 S.W.2d at 729. In K.C. Roofing, the court found an abuse of discretion when the trial court froze discovery, but held the error was harmless. 940 S.W.2d at 380. The court reasoned that, when the trial court issued its order freezing discovery, the time for discovery had already passed, no discovery was in progress, and no discovery had even been requested . Id. Thus, the court concluded there was no harm. Id.