December 29, 2011

December 29, 2011:
Dallas Court of Appeals tacitly approves use of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202 to obtain deposition discovery for the purpose of investigating a claim that would be subject to arbitration.  
Patton Boggs LLP v. Moseley, 394 S.W.3d 565 (Tex. App. -- Dallas 2011, no pet.).

Kate Moseley was a partner at Patton Boggs LLP.  She withdrew from the partnership and filed a charge of gender discrimination against the firm with the EEOC.  Thereafter, she filed a petition in Dallas County District Court seeking an order, pursuant to Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202, that would allow her to take three depositions of Patton Boggs.  Rule 202 generally allows a trial court to authorize the taking of depositions to investigate a potential claim provided the court makes certain required findings in its order.  Patton Boggs opposed the petition on various grounds and moved to compel arbitration and stay the Rule 202 proceeding, citing the arbitration provision in the partnership agreement requiring arbitration of any claim arising out of or relating to the agreement.  The trial court granted Ms. Moseley's petition, ordered that she be allowed to take three depositions of Patton Boggs, and denied Patton Boggs' motion to compel arbitration and for a stay.   

On petition for writ of mandamus, the Dallas Fifth District Court of Appeals set aside the order allowing Ms. Moseley to take the three depositions of Patton Boggs.  Significantly, the rationale for this ruling was not that such court ordered discovery is unavailable with respect to a claim subject to arbitration, but instead that the trial court failed to include in its order the findings required by Rule 202.  The Dallas court approved the denial of Patton Boggs' motion to compel arbitration:  "Moseley [contends] that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Patton Boggs's motion to compel arbitration filed in the rule 202 proceeding.  We agree.  Because the only proceeding before the trial court was a rule 202 petition, the trial court had no jurisdiction to grant a motion to compel arbitration . . . ."  394 S.W.3d at 572. 

This decision is significant because the Dallas court's opinion suggests that a party in Texas can obtain trial court approved deposition discovery (if the trial court makes the rule required findings) to investigate a claim even though the claim, when asserted, would be within the scope of an arbitration agreement.  

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