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86th Session Recap

The 86th session of the Legislature ended on May 31, but not before lawmakers took important steps to strengthen Texas’ standing as a model for lawsuit reform.  Here’s a look at what passed this legislative session:

Deceptive Lawyer Advertising: Sent to the Governor

Senate Bill 1189 will require ads for legal services to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician.

Transparency in Local Government Contracting: Sent to the Governor

House Bill 2826 will require greater transparency when local governmental entities, like Texas counties, hire personal injury lawyers on a contingency fee basis. 

Thank you to the Texas Legislature for supporting and passing these critical pieces of reform. We respectfully urge Governor Abbott to sign them into law.

A few examples of summertime lawsuits

You can find plenty of examples for “summertime lawsuits” with a quick online search. You’ll also find advertisements from personal injury lawyers ready to file a wide range of lawsuits. This summer use common sense to avoid being on the receiving end of lawsuit and to think twice before filing a suit.

Here are just a few examples of summertime lawsuits:

Baseball mom cries foul after son injured running to first, files $1M suit against Nations Baseball, Comcast

Lawsuit blames woman’s slip and fall at mall on slippery substance ‘thought to be ice cream’

Man sustains head injuries diving into pool, pursues legal action

Harris Co. woman suffers slip-and-fall on pool deck, files lawsuit

Woman says unsecured umbrella at community pool inflicted head injury

Lawsuit filed over Harris Co. man’s alleged injuries suffered during Fourth of July fireworks show

Woman sustains leg injury while roller skating at family reunion, brings lawsuit against host venue

Stand Up for Summer

Simple summertime pleasures can be taken away, because of frivolous lawsuits targeting some of our favorite activities. The most common target is a diving board. Many private and public forgo this exhilarating pool accessory due to fear of a lawsuit.

Let’s not cancel summer. Frivolous lawsuits cost time and money – even if cases are settled – and ruin some of life’s simplest pleasures. Let’s encourage personal responsibility and common sense before calling a lawyer.

Watch the Stand Up for Summer video.

Jury Service Appreciation Week

Texas Governor Greg Abbott declared May 6th – 10th, “Jury Service Appreciation Week.”

“The right to trial by jury of our peers is a critical part of our justice system. The obligation and privilege to serve as a juror are as fundamental to our democracy as the right to vote,” proclaimed Governor Abbott.

Texans know that jury service is important, but research has shown that many don’t show up when they’re summoned. If jurors avoid jury service, the justice we receive, as plaintiffs or defendants in a lawsuit, will be diminished. In short, fair and impartial juries are what make our justice system tick.

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups across Texas will be promoting Jury Service Appreciation Week and reminding Texans when you get served, go serve.

Update: Senate Bill 1189

Senate Bill 1189 by Senator Dawn Buckingham continues to move through the legislative process. SB 1189 would require advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician. 

Many proponents of the bill argue some lawyer ads can “unnecessarily” scare people to the point that they stop taking their essential medications.

These ads, “suggest severe side effects, but do not discuss the actual level of risk of having one of these complications.  They emphasize the risk and ignore the benefits.  Without this very important information, consumers cannot compare the life-saving or life-improving benefits that these medicines offer compared to the relatively low risk,” said Dr. Christine Canterbury, a board member of the Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse in Corpus Christi. “Patient adherence is critical to ensuring that medical and prescription treatments work effectively.  Without direction from a doctor, patients may be putting their health at serious risk.”

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas continues to support SB 1189 and the need for advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician.

New report shows Texans bombarded with ads for legal services, $4.1M spent in final quarter of 2018

AUSTIN — Television viewers in each of Texas’ four largest media markets were bombarded with an average $4.1 million in ads for lawyers, lawsuits and legal services in the final quarter of 2018, according to a new study released today by the American Tort Reform Association.

That translates into an average of one legal services ad for every minute of airtime across the state’s top four media markets, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin.

The study was released as Texas lawmakers consider legislation that would address a growing concern among doctors and health care professionals about the negative impact misleading lawsuit ads can have on patient health. 

Legislation by Sen. Dawn Buckingham – Senate Bill 1189 – would require advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting a doctor. 

The bill was passed by the Texas Senate and is now pending in the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee.

“Consumers currently have little protection from misleading ads for legal services — they’re everywhere, all the time and often scare people out of taking necessary medication,” said Marcus Jahns, chairman of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. 

“To put it in perspective, in Houston alone, there were twelve times as many legal services ads broadcast during local TV programming as there were commercials advertising banks.  In Dallas-Fort Worth, television viewers saw an average of 336 legal services ads per day or 14 ads per hour.”

In recent years, Texas health care professionals have become increasingly alarmed by the impact that some lawsuit advertisements can have on patient behavior.

A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of TALA found that 82 percent of doctors believe that such ads can lead to patients not taking their medications as prescribed. The survey also found that 66 percent of doctors say patients have questioned their recommended course of treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in a lawsuit ad.

“Because many of these ads are misleading, scaring people into a lawsuit and scaring them off of their medications, it’s time for the legislature to step in,” said Karen Easterling, chair of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas. “This is exactly why we need commonsense measures in place, and why we urge lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 1189.”

While the report found an average of $4.1 million was spent in each of the four largest media markets in Texas in the final quarter of 2018, most ad spending was seen in San Antonio.

According to the report, San Antonio saw the steepest quarterly increase in legal services ad spending among the four media markets reviewed. In the San Antonio media market, estimated legal services ad spending in the fourth quarter skyrocketed by nearly $1 million or 22 percent over the third quarter spending and $2 million more than was spent in the second quarter of 2018.

Southeast Texas Record
April 17, 2019

Don’t Let a Lawyer Be Your Doctor

If patients have questions about a medication or treatment, it’s important to consult a doctor or another trusted medical professional first. Don’t fall victim to personal injury lawyer tactics. Don’t let a lawyer be your doctor.

Watch Partnership to Protect Patient Health’s video on some personal injury lawyer advertisements are bad for patients. Support HB 2251 and SB 1189.

Bringing transparency to lawyer health care advertising, Texas lawmakers hear testimony on HB 2251

Bringing transparency to lawyer health care advertising, Texas lawmakers hear testimony on HB 2251

AUSTIN – Any daytime television watcher has most likely seen a lawyer advertisement warning viewers of the dangers of a prescription drug. Concerned such ads might lead some to stop taking their meds, Texas lawmakers are now considering a bill that would bring transparency.

The House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on House Bill 2251 on March 25.

Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, told committee members that he introduced HB 2251, which seeks to add disclosures to attorney health care advertising, because he’s a proponent of transparency.

Capriglione said his bill provides for certain “commonsense disclosures” so potential clients hooked by lawyer health care ads will be better informed.

Capriglione believes viewers should know who is paying for the ad, and whether the lawyer or law firm featured in the ad will actually be handling the case. And most importantly, the representative believes viewers should know that the lawyer ad is not actually providing medical advice.

The bill would require advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician.

“Many of us simply ignore these ads, I do, but for Texans that actually take (prescription drugs), the ads can be confusing and misleading and sometimes a cause for needless anxiety,” Capriglione said. “That’s because in order to catch people’s attention and compel them to sign up for legal services, the ads sometimes use scare tactics, such as sometimes claiming a drug has been recalled when it hasn’t or is under investigation by the FDA when it isn’t.

“This has led people to stop taking their critical medications without consulting their doctors, leading to serious harm. The bottom line is that a lawyer is not a doctor.”

A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse found that 82 percent of doctors believe that such ads can lead to patients not taking their medications as prescribed.

The survey also found that 66 percent of doctors say patients have questioned their recommended course of treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in a lawsuit ad.

If passed, HB 2251 would grant authority to impose fines on lawyers who market deceptive ads. The bill does not stop lawyer advertising or keep a lawsuit from being filed.

Speaking against the bill was Mike Gallagher, a Houston attorney who represents numerous counties in opioid litigation.

Gallagher told committee members that there are aspects of lawyer health care advertising that do call into question as to whether the ads “reflect favorably on our profession.”

“And that’s a concern we all share,” Gallagher said. “However, there are certain guarantees that apply to such things, like the First Amendment, free speech.”

He recommended that the committee proceed carefully because of the “sanctity” of the First Amendment.

Texas television viewers were inundated by more than 190,000 advertisements for legal services in the state’s three largest media markets over a six-month period last year, according to a recent report by the American Tort Reform Association.

The study examined the prevalence of legal advertising in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, and found that legal services accounted for a staggering $23.4 million in ad buys during the period studied.

Comparing legal services ads to other common ad categories, the study found that viewers in Houston saw more than 19 lawsuit ads for every pizza ad, while San Antonio viewers saw more than 11 times as many legal ads than ads for hardware stores.

A companion bill, SB 1189, was filed by Sen. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway.

 

SE Texas Record, March 27, 2019.

Dallas Morning News: Why did Apple abandon Frisco? We can tell you in two words

March 6, 2019

Why did Apple abandon Frisco? We can tell you in two words

Dallas Morning News Editorial

American entrepreneurism thrives on innovation and legal safeguards to protect the sweat, toil and interests of inventors. Their efforts turn our economy by providing consumers with new products and services.

So we find it maddening when opportunistic companies exploit the courts and our patent law to cut themselves a big piece of the pie.

What brings this to mind is an episode in our own backyard. Apple recently announced plans to close its stores in the Shops of Willow Bend and Stonebriar Centre in Collin County, one of the fastest growing counties in the nation.

Officially, Apple says it is closing the stores to upgrade its NorthPark Center, Knox Street and Southlake Town Square stores, and to open a store in the Dallas Galleria. That may be true, but speculation circulating in technology circles is that Apple also is trying to elude patent trolls, the curse of innovation.

Frankly, we don’t doubt that, nor would we blame Apple if it’s true. Patent trolls build their entire business model around exploiting patent infringement laws and devising creative interpretations of intellectual property regulations to assert a claim to a patent. The mere act of defending or settling claims costs companies, the economy and consumers billions of dollars in what amount to legalized shakedowns.

Apple has been a major target, and both Collin County stores fall within the jurisdiction of the Tyler-based Eastern District of Texas, one of the most popular and favorable places in the U.S. for trolls to sue for intellectual property infringement. Historically, the federal court district has handled more patent cases than any of the 93 other districts in the United States, with many of them landing in a courtroom in the small East Texas town of Marshall. Our quick review on the Internet found at least three payouts of more than $300 million each from Apple to trolls in patent awards in the eastern district in the past decade.

Our problem with trolling is that it goes beyond the time-honored practice of lawyers seeking the best place to litigate. Trolling siphons wealth and opportunity from those who create it and turns the court into a lottery ticket and the jurisdiction into the equivalent of a speed trap. The threat of a patent troll tying up entrepreneurs or companies in court chills innovation.

A 2017 Supreme Court ruling limited patent holders from suing U.S. corporations anywhere in the United States to filing complaints in districts where the company is incorporated or has an established place of business. Apple’s two Collin County stores — arguably established places of business — potentially made the corporation vulnerable even though the stores had nothing to do with research, development or patents.

All of this, forgive us, is patently unfair. Patents are supposed to protect investment and innovation. When the courts and patent law become vehicles for trolls to piggyback on and prosper from someone else’s labor, it is time to better protect intellectual property.

This editorial was written by the editorial board and serves as the voice and opinion of The Dallas Morning News.

Legislation Reintroduced for Disclosure of Third-Party Funding in Lawsuits

Legislation has been introduced by a group of U.S. Senators, including Texas Senator John Cornyn, to require transparency in third-party funding of lawsuits.

“I am pleased to see Congress take note of these backroom funding deals and work to bring transparency to third-party litigation funding,” said Tiger Joyce, president of the American Tort Reform Association.  “The Litigation Funding Transparency Act will help bring fairness back to our courts and shine a light on the behind-the-scenes workings of those who wish to steer litigation outcomes by funding certain court cases.”

Lisa A. Rickard, the president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, said in a statement supporting the bill that “Congress also sees the dangers that secretive lawsuit funding deals pose to fairness and justice in our courts.  It’s time for the lucrative business of betting on other peoples’ lawsuits to get examined in the light of day, and the Litigation Funding Transparency Act will do just that.”

Read more: Sen. Cornyn Among Republicans Reintroducing Bill Pushing for Disclosure of Litigation Funding