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For This and Every Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week,

Stopping Lawsuit Abuse Starts With You!

The first week of October 2022 is Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week. If you’re wondering, “What does that mean for me?” Or, “How does that affect me?” The answer is, “It Starts With You!”

We all share in the responsibility to stop lawsuit abuse and to support a legal system grounded in common sense. Each of us can do our part by serving on a jury when called, reporting ambulance chasing or the illegal solicitation of clients by a lawyer, and making the decision not to pursue a questionable lawsuit.

Being a savvy legal consumer is also important for those times you do need legal help. See our Legal Consumer Guide for more.

Many of us may remember that Texas once was the wild west of frivolous lawsuits and outrageous damage awards. Much of that has changed, thanks to Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse supporters like you, as well as other advocates and lawmakers who enacted legislative reforms at the Texas Capitol.

Lawsuit reform = improved economy + jobs

That progress and our improved legal climate have helped bolster our economy and create Texas jobs. Thanks to the reform of our medical liability laws, we have more doctors practicing in our state, including more in underserved areas.

But all of that can change quickly. So, it’s on all of us to continue to fight against any abuse of our justice system, support additional legislation that may be needed, and protect the reforms we’ve worked so hard for over the years.

On the eve of another election, there is one more important action you can take: Find out where your candidates stand on lawsuit abuse before stepping into the voting booth on November 8, 2022 to cast your ballot. Make it a point to ask your candidates, “Do you support lawsuit reform? Do you commit to protecting the reforms in place?”

It really does start with you!

If we all hold our candidates and elected officials accountable, we’re less apt to return to the “bad old days” when junk lawsuits and outlandish damage awards made Texas the poster child for lawsuit abuse, costing us all. Because, as we all know, when it comes to lawsuit abuse, we all pay – and we all lose.

On the Front Line of Lawsuit Reform for 25-Plus Years

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas (CALACTX) is part of the national movement of small business owners, medical professionals, and community leaders committed to smart-minded lawsuit reform has its roots right here in Texas. Over the years, we and other Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) groups have been on the front lines of lawsuit reform, working to help ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed.

CALACTX and other CALAs call out lawsuit abuse in their communities and make their voices heard at the State Capitol. That push for reform has come a long way over the past 25-plus years since our start in Texas.

The Lone Star State was once the wild west of frivolous lawsuits and outlandish court awards, ranked among the American Tort Reform Association’s worst Judicial Hellholes. But over the years, CALA supporters successfully pressed for reforms to rein in abusive legal practices that undermined job creation, drove doctors out of under-served communities, and exposed employers to questionable legal claims. 

The goal has always been to embrace common-sense reforms to stop the abuse while preserving Texans’ access to our civil courts where and when needed.

While Texas has enacted important reforms, we know more needs to be done, and you can help. It’s up to all of us to take it upon ourselves to be savvy legal consumers, to show up for jury service, to cast informed ballots every election, and to do all that we can ensure our courts are used for justice.

The civil justice system is designed to provide compensation for real injuries, and the more the system is abused, the less it can help those who need it the most.

Our courts should not be used to seek revenge or try to “hit the lawsuit lottery.” Conflicts are inevitable in our society, but a lawsuit should be the last resort, not the first choice.

Patent Trolls Find Fertile Ground in Texas

Posted in the Southeast Texas Record

By Roger Borgelt

Texas once was the Wild West of lawsuit abuse. Over time, it transformed into a beacon of reform, ending many of the most egregious examples of lawsuit abuse.

But the bad guys have a way of resurfacing, and sure enough, new villains are here, right in our backyard: patent trolls. In recent years, these patent trolls and their army of high-powered lawyers have descended upon Waco, Texas.

Why Waco? It’s where they’ve found a welcoming federal court and judge.

In the internet sense, trolling involves harassment with an intent to harm. In the case of patent trolls, it’s legal harassment and meritless lawsuits that come with the threat of billions in phony damages for false charges of patent infringement.

Patent trolls threaten the real Texas and American job creators and innovators, and it’s not the first time they’ve tried to capitalize on a friendly judge and courtroom in Texas. The Eastern District of Texas was once their preferred venue, landing Texas on the American Tort Reform Association’s Judicial Hellholes list in 2016, noting that 40% of all patent troll cases that year were filed in the Eastern District.

Patent trolls do not research, develop, make, or sell anything related to the patents they argue have been infringed. They are created to file lawsuit after lawsuit, claiming to represent the little guy while they work to line the pockets of some lawyers, hedge funds, and big foreign corporations.

Many trolls are nothing more than shell companies, funded and created by hedge funds or foreign companies. Patent trolls are filing hundreds of cases, creating a spike in courts across Texas, but nothing like the staggering case numbers in the Waco courtroom of Judge Alan Albright, who has rolled out the welcome mat for patent and intellectual property lawsuits.

In 2020, the district saw a tidal wave of new patent infringement cases, a jump of 350 percent over the previous year, according to reporting by Texas Lawbook. Waco is now the go-to court in the U.S. to litigate these patent troll disputes.

These suits squeeze technology companies for big payouts, threatening them with costly, often prolonged lawsuits and awards that are wildly out of line with their claims.

Meritless patent troll lawsuits exact high costs on America’s job creators and true tech innovators. Patent troll lawsuits reduce R&D investment by U.S. companies, slowing innovation and undermining U.S. leadership in technology. But it’s not just the most prominent technology firms under attack. An estimated 60% of patent litigation filed by patent trolls targets businesses with less than $100 million in annual revenues.

These cases are lawsuit abuse to an extreme, hitting some of Texas’ and America’s real innovators and biggest job creators. And they are doing actual harm to our state’s business climate. A study found that these lawsuits were associated with half a trillion dollars of losses to companies targeted from 1990-2010. The median damages awarded in patent litigation have climbed from $1.9 million in 2010 to $10.2 million in 2017.

Patent trolls most recently exploited the pandemic to line their pockets. Patent troll abuse extended into critical healthcare technologies, including ventilators and Covid-19 tests.

We should be finding ways to stop these frivolous patent lawsuits while ensuring legitimate claims still get their day in court.

It’s time for Texans to call out these patent trolls for their destructive and unscrupulous ways. It’s time for increased scrutiny as to why Waco is so friendly to these patent trolls and their lawyers.

As we work to recover our businesses and our economy from this pandemic, we don’t need patent trolls wreaking havoc on our state’s reputation as wide open for business. It’s time to ensure courts like Waco and others are used for justice, not greed.

Roger Borgelt is an attorney and Board Member of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

SMALL BUSINESS LEADERS TALK ABOUT LAWSUIT ABUSE AND ITS IMPACT ON JOBS

VIA VIDEOS, SOCIAL, MEDIA, AND OTHER ACTIVITIES

While Texas has made progress in reforming its laws that once made the state a testing ground for frivolous lawsuits and abusive legal practices, many small businesses know they are still just one lawsuit away from being put out of business. 

To call attention to this ongoing threat, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) groups are sharing video testimonials and other information to underscore what questionable lawsuits mean for a small employer – and the role each of us plays in ensuring the courts are used for justice, not greed.

“Small businesses truly are the heart of our community. We are the ones that support the youth sports team, step up in times of crisis, and are deeply invested in our communities. But, it also makes us a target for frivolous and abusive lawsuits, “ said Sarah Sagredo-Hammond, owner of Atlas Electrical, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration and a supporter of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

Texas lawmakers have made important progress on lawsuit reform over the years.  Once considered the “wild west of lawsuit abuse,” Texas is now a model for common-sense reform.  Those changes have contributed to the state’s job-creating powers and business climate.

The “It Starts With You” videos are a reminder of the importance of those reforms – but also a reminder that questionable lawsuits and legal practices can still threaten an employer, especially a small business.

Bobby Jenkins, president, and CEO of Austin-based ABC Home & Commercial Services is a former chairman of the board of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas and has been on the front lines of lawsuit reform.

“While Texas has passed strong lawsuit reforms, it’s important to remain vigilant in the fight against lawsuit abuse,” said Jenkins. “We can all play a role.  We can all be smart legal consumers, serve on juries when possible, and do all that we can ensure our courts are used for justice as intended.”  

Jenkins appears in one of the videos talking about the years-long fight against lawsuit abuse and how small businesses have been helped by decades of reforms passed by Texas lawmakers.

“Defending even a frivolous lawsuit can be costly,” added D’Anne Buquet, executive director of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in Corpus Christi.  “For a small business, absorbing high legal expenses can mean not hiring a new employee or putting off the purchase of needed equipment.”

To view the videos, see the TALA YouTube page. For more on TALA and CALA organizations, visit www.tala.com.

Legal Consumer Guide

Tips and Other Information to Consider Before Hiring a Lawyer

The recent case of a San Antonio lawyer accused of stealing millions of dollars from his clients is a good reminder to us all about the importance of doing your homework when looking for a lawyer to represent you.

One site to check is the State Bar of Texas, which includes background information about Texas-based lawyers.  Check for any disciplinary actions or complaints against the lawyer you are considering hiring.

As with all things, shop around when looking for a lawyer, and talk to more than one lawyer about your case. There may be differing opinions about how to handle your case. And don’t be pressured. Make sure you’ve made your final decision on representation before signing an agreement.

You can see more consumer tips by clicking here.

Another important election is coming up!

Texans will soon have the chance to head back to the voting booth for statewide runoff elections on Tuesday, May 24 – and like all elections, it’s important that voters turn out to cast a ballot. But before you head to the polls, be sure to learn where your candidate stands on ongoing efforts to rein in lawsuit abuse.  

Our state was once a poster child for lawsuit abuse, but thanks to the work of Texans across the state and lawmakers in Austin, Texas has enacted important reforms to our legal system and legal practices. Still, we can’t let that progress slip away, and that means ensuring that the candidates we vote for support keeping our civil justice system fair, equitable, and responsible.

Thanks in part to the reforms passed by state lawmakers over the years, the Texas economy is flourishing, jobs have been created, and more doctors are practicing in the state. We can’t afford to allow that to change.

Turnout for this upcoming runoff election has been low during early voting, so we ask that you please take some time to go vote on Tuesday, May 24. And be sure to take some time to research the candidates to find out their positions on lawsuit reform.

TEXANS AGAINST LAWSUIT ABUSE URGE ATTORNEY GENERAL CANDIDATES TO PRIORITIZE TRANSPARENCY,

OPEN ACCOUNTABILITY IN OFFICE

AUSTIN, TEXAS–As voters prepare to return to the polls for the primary election run-off on May 24, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse is calling on all candidates for Attorney General to prioritize transparency and open accountability in office.

“At Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, we’re heartened to see the American Tort Reform Association again calling for attorneys general and candidates for those state offices to embrace a general transparency code,” said Robert Wood, spokesman for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. “We’re hopeful that all candidates will step up to sign this pledge and commit to good government.”

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) developed the Transparency Code as a collection of model policies that should govern the use of outside counsel by state attorneys general.

In 1999, Texas passed a law relating to how and when the state government could use outside counsel on litigation. The reason for the change stemmed from then-Attorney General Dan Morales’ decision to contract with five contingency fee lawyers to pursue claims against tobacco companies.

While it was discovered that these five personal injury lawyers did very little work on behalf of Texas taxpayers and the state’s lawsuit, they received $3.3 billion in fees when the cases were resolved as part of a larger national settlement.

In passing that law more than two decades ago, a bipartisan group of state leaders made transparency and accountability a top priority. Learn more about the law and the renewed push for transparency and accountability at tala.com. To see what leaders in Texas and other states have signed the Transparency Code, visit AGsunshine.com

The law requires the state to attempt to handle all litigation through in-house counsel. It outlines how an agency should handle contracting for outside counsel when it’s necessary to use lawyers outside of those employed by the state, requiring a contracting agency to first seek an hourly fee arrangement.

“Attorneys general should, of course, have the discretion and independence to enforce state law. Still, they must do so free from the influence of parties that may have a private interest in the outcome of any litigation their office may take on,” said Wood.

“Transparency and accountability are issues that should transcend partisanship,” added Wood.

Letter To The Editor on SB-6

From the Southeast Texas Record

By Robert Wood

RE: Pandemic Liability Protection Act: Is SB 6 Working?

Recent numbers pulled together by the Texas Civil Justice League from several sources show a new law providing COVID-19 civil liability protections for employers, health care providers, and non-profits following appropriate public health protocols is working.

The Pandemic Liability Protection Act was designed to steer these claims through the state’s Worker’s Compensation System and keep them out of court. That is what is happening, keeping our courts open to considering other issues in a system still backed up because of the pandemic.

Lawmakers did the right thing in passing this legislation that is benefiting the state’s economy and helping our continued recovery from the pandemic.  

Sincerely,

Robert Wood

Spokesman, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse

Research candidates

It seems like every election there are surprises when it comes to the outcome of judicial races, with judges losing their elections through no apparent fault of their own.

Voters must search a little harder to find out about the candidates, which doesn’t always happen. That can lead to uninformed voting.

No matter the election, we all should take the time to learn more about judicial candidates on the ballot, including their record and whether they are committed to applying the law as written — not legislating from the bench.

Amber Pearce, board chair, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas

Thanks to the San Antonio Express-News for printing Amber’s Letter to the Editor on March 13. Express-News subscribers can see the letter posted HERE.

It’s Election Time Again

In our “It Starts With You” campaign, we say that preventing lawsuit abuse starts with you. The same is true for choosing candidates in the next election. The upcoming primary elections and the November general election provide opportunities for voters to elect leaders that understand the importance of lawsuit reform.

We ask that you take some time and research candidates to see where they stand on the issues. Take into consideration where those candidates stand on lawsuit abuse and reform and make an informed decision at the ballot box.

Texas is a leader in lawsuit reform, and that has contributed to our state’s stellar position in creating jobs, attracting and keeping doctors in Texas, and helping support small employers.  If we want to keep a strong economy in Texas, it is critical that we not diminish these reforms and keep an eye out for new ways to improve the fairness of our courts.

Early voting starts Monday, February 14, and runs through Friday, February 25. Election Day is on Tuesday, March 1.

If you need to check if you’re registered or find out where you need to vote, click HERE.

For more voting information on the upcoming primary elections, visit VoteTexas.gov.