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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Mary Ann Kaiser sought to discover the net worth information of several defendants in a civil case. In addition to the claims she asserted against the various defendants, she also sought punitive damages. Of the defendants, only Ed Hein had direct contact with Kaiser during the transactions that formed the basis of Kaiser’s underlying suit. The punitive damages that Kaiser seeks to recover against Tyrell Garth, Robert Verde and Mike Fuljenz are premised upon her claim of conspiracy. In their petition seeking a writ of mandamus, Hein, Garth, Verde and Fuljenz (the defendants) asserted that Kaiser’s pleadings were insufficient to allow a punitive damages claim to be submitted against them. As a result, they contended they should not be required to produce their net worth information in discovery. The defendants further contended that Kaiser should be required to make a prima facie showing regarding her conspiracy claims before the defendants are subjected to the discovery of their net worth information. The defendants did not assert that Kaiser’s discovery requests are insufficiently specific, overly broad or that complying with her requests would be unduly burdensome. Among her many requests, Kaiser sought the defendants’ tax returns. The trial court held two hearings on Kaiser’s motion to compel discovery. At the second hearing, Kaiser argued that she was not required to make a prima facie case on her conspiracy claim in order to obtain discovery of the respective individual’s net worth information. HOLDING:The court denied in part the petition for a writ of mandamus, and conditionally granted in part the petition. The court first examined whether Kaiser’s pleadings were sufficient to support the admission of evidence on a claim for punitive damages against the individual defendants. Construing Kaiser’s pleadings in her favor, the court held that Kaiser’s pleadings were sufficient to notify the individual defendants that she sought to hold them liable for punitive damages through a conspiracy theory. The court further held that the individuals had fair notice that the trial court would admit testimony regarding their net worth. The court next turned to the defendants’ argument that Kaiser must make a prima facie showing of a conspiracy before she could discover their net worth. The court deemed such a showing unnecessary. Absent a privilege or specifically enumerated exemption, the court noted that the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure permit discovery of any relevant matter. Next, the court addressed the trial court’s order that the defendants produce their tax returns and other similar documents that would show income and assets. According to the court, the trial court’s order requiring the production of tax returns exceeded the court’s discretion for two reasons. First, the court stated that the trial court’s order required the production of certain financial statements regarding the individual’s net worth; therefore, additional information showing only assets was not relevant. Second, the court stated that Kaiser failed to show how the tax returns would help determine the net worth of the defendants. Absent a predicate showing of relevance on the issue of net worth, the court held that Kaiser could not obtain the defendants’ tax returns through discovery. OPINION:Per curiam; McKeithen, C.J., and Kreger and Horton, J.J.

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