Author Archive

Do You Know Where Your Candidates Stand on Lawsuit Reform?

Texas, which once had the biggest lawsuit abuse problem in the country, is now a leader in the lawsuit reform movement. 

The changes made have helped:

The progress made has been hard-fought, making it important we elect officials who work just as hard to defend those reforms that have ensured our courts are used for justice, not greed. These reforms have helped Texas become a place where businesses want to be – and that means more jobs and a stronger economy. We must continue to protect these reforms and elect officials who will, too.

As the November election approaches and you consider your options on the ballot, do you know where your candidates stand? Every day candidates talk about the need for continued job growth and the importance of access to health care — each vitally important to the continued wellbeing of Texans.  But are your candidates willing to protect lawsuit reform and fight against attempts by some personal injury lawyers to undo those reforms?

Before you head to the ballot box make sure to research your candidates and ask them questions.

Early voting starts on October 13 and ends October 30, 2020.

Absentee ballots requests must be received by October 23, 2020.

Election Day is November 3, 2020.

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.

Statewide Virtual Summit: Pandemic Liability Lawsuits

On Wednesday, October 7, 2020, at 2 pm, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) of Central Texas is hosting a virtual policy summit on pandemic liability lawsuits in conjunction with Bay Area CALA and CALA RGV.

RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pandemic-liability-lawsuits-growing-covid-19-litigation-update-on-reform-tickets-121388507293

Pandemic for Profit

From Texans for Lawsuit Reform

As the U.S. continues to deal with the widespread effects of COVID-19, it’s clear no industry is immune to the pandemic’s wrath—including law firms. But do all of these law firms really need to dig into the government wallet?

Some of the largest personal injury firms in the nation (many of which call Texas home) received loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The program is intended to help small businesses keep their workforces employed during the pandemic, primarily by covering the cost of payroll.

Several plaintiff law firms took PPP loans—which required them to certify that the loans were necessary to preserve their ongoing operations—while simultaneously making political contributions to at least one political action committee.

Further, it’s curious that many of these firms have run—and in some cases, continue to run—TV ads touting multi-million-dollar lawsuit awards and settlements, even as they claim to need a taxpayer-funded bailout to keep staff employed. 

These personal injury law firms cumulatively received millions of dollars from the PPP at a time when many small businesses could not access the funds. To add insult to injury to job creators struggling to keep their doors open, some personal injury firms have begun exploring opportunities to file COVID-related lawsuits against a variety of businesses.

As TLR General Counsel Lee Parsley recently noted, the last thing employers need right now is to deal with a costly and time consuming lawsuit, especially if it has been fueled by a taxpayer-funded loan. The majority of businesses are doing their best to serve their communities, adhere to public health standards for their employees and customers and protect jobs. 

Although there is much we still don’t know about how the coming months will shake out, one thing is clear: recovering from this pandemic will require us to do everything we can to support job creation and strengthen our economy. That includes shutting down opportunistic personal injury trial lawyers who attempt to use the pandemic for profit.

www.tortreform.com/for-the-record/pandemic-for-profit/

Senator Cornyn Introduces COVID Liability Protection Legislation

By George Christian, General Counsel, Texas Civil Justice League 

Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) has introduced legislation to shield businesses, health care providers, schools, non-profit organizations, and other entities from liability for personal injury claims allegedly caused by exposure to the novel coronavirus. The Act applies to injuries from alleged exposure occurring between December 1, 2019, and the later of the end of the declared emergency or October 1, 2024. Claimants have one year to file suit from the date of the alleged exposure. The Act applies to pending claims.

The SAFE Act creates a safe harbor for entities that make reasonable efforts to comply with mandatory public health guidelines or, if no mandatory guidelines are in effect, with at least one set of voluntary guidelines. If multiple guidelines apply to the entity, compliance with any one of them will satisfy the safe harbor requirement. An entity loses the protection of the safe harbor if it does not take reasonable steps to comply with guidelines, and the entity’s gross negligence or willful misconduct causes the claimant’s injury. The Act contains similar protections for health care providers, employers for employment related exposure, and product manufacturers. The SAFE Act pre-empts state law to the extent the state does not have more stringent liability protections, so it acts as a floor rather than a ceiling.

TCJL applauds Senator Cornyn for his hard work on this legislation and will work with its members to secure its passage, presumably as part of a larger coronavirus relief bill under consideration in Congress.

Read the bill here: https://tcjl.com/senator-cornyn-introduces-covid-liability-protection-legislation/

Bexar County civil court will be the pilot for virtual jury trials

Our “new normal” is bringing many changes, but one thing hasn’t changed: the importance that jury participation plays in our judicial system. In August, Bexar County will serve as the test case for holding virtual jury trials in Texas. Officials with the 57th Civil District Court, along with the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Office of Court Administration, have been brainstorming on how to conduct virtual court proceedings via Zoom since jury duty was suspended in March.

While jury summons and service processes will certainly look different, many aspects will remain the same. When a resident receives a summons, they must answer a questionnaire the helps lawyers and the court in seating a virtual jury panel. The same exemptions (such as age, student status, active duty military) will apply. However, a summons will also include information on how to use Zoom and access WiFi and electronic devices if needed.

While this transition won’t happen without technical difficulties, many are optimistic that virtual jury trails could bring much-needed progress to the justice system.

Read more: https://www.expressnews.com/news/local/article/In-a-first-Bexar-County-will-attempt-to-seat-a-15429966.php

When it comes to legal reform, good judges matter

Texas, which once had the biggest lawsuit abuse problem in the country, is now a leader in the lawsuit reform movement.

The changes made have helped:

To protect these reforms, it’s critical that we elect judges who will impartially apply the law as written. The decisions of one activist judge can threaten positive legislative advances that have taken years to enact.

Equally important, we must elect judges who are competent, with years of meaningful experience. Experienced judges make our justice system more efficient, reducing litigation costs and ensuring the law will be applied fairly and even-handedly.

Having judges who will advance a straightforward reading of our laws is vital. Make sure to learn about your judicial candidates before voting on July 14.

Early voting starts on June 29, 2020 and ends July 10, 2020.

Election Day is July 14, 2020.

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

Juror Walks Off to Take Phone Call as Texas Tests First Jury Trial Via Zoom

Our “new normal” hasn’t come without growing pains even in the court system, but one thing hasn’t changed: the importance of answering the call when summoned for jury duty. #GetServedGoServe https://www.law.com/texaslawyer/2020/05/18/juror-walks-off-to-take-phone-call-as-texas-tests-first-jury-trial-via-zoom/ 

Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Patrick, Speaker Bonnen Send Letter To Congressional Leaders Urging Support For Employer Liability Protections

May 12, 2020 | Austin, Texas |Office of the Governor

Governor Greg Abbott, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen today sent a letter to Congressional Leaders asking them to support liability protections for Texas employers. In the letter, the three state leaders urge Congress to support the inclusion of legal protections in the next phase of federal coronavirus relief legislation that would protect business owners, healthcare facilities and employees, and first responders from being held liable for COVID-19 exposure claims when they adhere to relevant public health guidelines and make good faith efforts to limit the risk of exposure and infection.

“Facing record unemployment and an unprecedented financial crisis, we must take immediate and swift action to protect our state’s job creators and our healthcare industry from crippling litigation that would certainly delay the full recovery of our economy,” reads the letter. “Federal action is the swiftest course to provide liability protections, and we ask for your leadership and support for such measures in the next phase of COVID-19 recovery legislation. Because many Texas businesses and healthcare providers operate in multiple states or have multi-state supply chains, the United States Congress is uniquely positioned to deliver the appropriate nation-wide solution.”

View the letter from Governor Abbott. Lt. Governor Patrick, and Speaker Bonnen.

Personal Injury Lawyers Continue to “Cash In” Thanks to Class-Action Lawsuits

A recently published white paper, An Empirical Analysis of Federal Consumer Fraud Class Action Settlements, on class-action settlements by the Jones Day law firm confirms what we have known for a while: some of these lawsuits deliver big jackpots for some personal injury lawyers, often at the expense of consumers.  The study’s main findings:

For far too long, many class action lawsuits have been abused at the expense of consumers.  In some cases, consumers are “awarded” coupons, while personal injury lawyers “cash in” in the name of consumer rights. Worst of all, the litigation costs are then passed on to consumers through increased prices, fewer innovations, and lower product quality.

Class action lawsuits were intended to speed the handling of multiple cases by allowing individuals with the same grievance to file a single claim.  They were supposed to be the consumer’s best shot at justice.  Any system that pays millions of dollars to personal injury lawyers for drumming up lawsuits, but leaves complainants with measly coupons, is in dire need of reform.

While Texas lawmakers already have enacted class-action reform, the need for other states and the federal government to follow our lead is clear.  Others should take their cue from the Texas Legislature and pass real and lasting reform so that class action lawsuits can serve their intended purpose: to deliver justice for consumers who have been wronged, not serve as a course for jackpots by some personal injury lawyers. 

Read the full study here: https://www.jonesday.com/en/insights/2020/04/empirical-analysis-consumer-fraud-class-action

Anticipating the COVID-19 Lawsuit Storm

While health care professionals and other essential workers fight the COVID-19 pandemic from the front lines, they should not be worried about being sued for good-faith efforts they make in an attempt to save a life.  However, some personal injury lawyers see the current crisis as an opportunity to cash in.  The first lawsuits targeting health care providers, employers, retailers and other businesses for COVID-related injuries have already been filed.

Congress has provided limited liability protection for volunteer health care workers through the CARES Act, for manufacturers of N-95 masks through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and for some health care workers through the PREP Act.  Despite these protections, legislative efforts may be needed at the state level – including in Texas when the Legislature returns to the Capitol in January 2021.

The American Tort Reform Association has published a white paper exploring legal liability concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic with potential policy solutions for states to consider. The main policy prescriptions include legislation:

Read the full white paper here.