AUSTIN, TEXAS – Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) leaders are applauding legislation aimed at reining in abusive lawsuits plaguing commercial vehicle owners and operators. The legislation, House Bill 19, is authored by state Rep. Jeff Leach, chairman of the Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
While other types of personal injury lawsuits are decreasing in Texas, motor vehicle litigation is increasing in the state. The number of motor vehicle lawsuits jumped 118 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2019, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration. In contrast, other types of injury and damage cases decreased seven percent during the same period. The result: Insurance rates are skyrocketing, whether or not a company has even had an accident. That has already driven some trucking companies out of business and could mean higher costs for goods and services for consumers.
“Any truck or car with a company logo on it is a target for abusive lawsuits,” said Bobby Jenkins, a board member of CALA of Central Texas in Austin. “No matter the size of the vehicle or industry, and no matter how minor the accident or who was at fault, commercial delivery and service vehicles are susceptible to these questionable lawsuits. If your neighborhood pharmacy makes deliveries in a car with a logo on its door, that business is a potential target of an abusive lawsuit. So is everyone from rideshare services to restaurant delivery vehicles to plumbers.”
Noting the impact to small businesses, Jenkins said nearly 88 percent of commercial carriers in Texas operate 10 or fewer vehicles.
D’Anne Buquet, executive director of Bay Area CALA in Corpus Christi, said without immediate reform, many small businesses will continue to be saddled with increased costs of doing business. At the same time, Buquet said, the state could see more trucking businesses shutter their operations in Texas. “And we all could see higher costs for the goods and services we need and depend on, especially right now during the pandemic,” Buquet said.
“By targeting abusive and frivolous lawsuits that plagued our civil justice system for decades, Texas lawmakers have helped ensure our courts are a place for justice, not greed,” said Amber Pearce, chair of CALA of Central Texas. “It’s time to turn our attention to reforming the persistent attack on commercial vehicle operators and owners.”
Sergio Contreras, president/CEO of Weslaco-based Rio Grande Valley CALA, said if not reined in, lawsuit abuse against owners and operators of commercial vehicles could land Texas back on the ‘Judicial Hellholes’ list. The annual list from the American Tort Reform Foundation (ATRF) flags areas of the country where lawsuit abuse is rampant, and justice is not evenly applied. Texas has escaped the list in recent years.
“It would be easy to chalk up our past reforms and call it game over on lawsuit abuse in our state, but that’s simply not the case,” Contreras said. “We hope the Legislature takes up these reforms to rein in trucking lawsuit abuse as quickly as possible.”
For more on Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, visit www.tala.com.
The ATRF 2020-2021 Judicial Hellholes report can be found here. Learn more about the history of lawsuit reform in Texas here.
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