Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Dallas-Based Court Keeps Texas on the “Hellholes” Watch List

Smart-minded reforms passed by the Texas Legislature over the past two decades have fought against frivolous lawsuits, abusive legal practices, and unreasonable damage awards, contributing to a business climate that continues to create new jobs in our state. What’s more, landmark Texas medical liability reforms have helped result in more physicians practicing in underserved areas.

But a not-so-rosy picture is emerging in other areas. Each year the American Tort Reform Foundation publishes its Judicial Hellholes, a report highlighting the most egregious abuses in the civil justice system across the U.S. Thanks to the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District, Texas once again finds itself on the report’s Watch List.

The latest Judicial Hellholes report sends a warning signal, reminding us that a vigilant defense against lawsuit abuse is a year-round and ongoing priority for voters, legislators, and our justice system.

The Dallas-based Court of Appeals for the Fifth District lands on this year’s Watch List for repeatedly misapplying established U.S. Supreme Court and state precedents and procedures, requiring review and reversal by the Texas Supreme Court.

During the first six months of 2022, the Texas Supreme Court unanimously overturned five Fifth Court decisions. Clearly, our system allows for appeals and reviews of lower court verdicts, but the extent to which the higher court has rejected the Fifth Court should raise eyebrows.

To some, making such legal mistakes that are overturned may not seem like a big deal, but it is. A court that is known for questionable decisions or that fails to apply the law in a fair and even-handed manner is cause for concern. These types of mistakes can have a significant and serious impact on our civil justice system, and damaging that system can undermine our economy, cost Texas jobs, and hurt consumers.

We’ve worked hard to promote a civil justice system in Texas that is fair and just. As the Fifth Court and its Watch List designation indicates, Texas can’t rest on past success. Voters and our state lawmakers should keep a watchful eye on abuses in our civil justice system.

To find out more about why the Fifth Court remained on the Watch List, CLICK HERE.

Texas AG candidates should sign ATRA transparency pledge

As voters return to the polls for this year’s General Election, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) is calling on all candidates for Attorney General to prioritize transparency and open accountability in office.

The American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) has contacted Attorney General Ken Paxton and his challenger, Rochelle Garza, asking that they sign a pledge to embrace a general transparency code for the Office of the Attorney General operations. TALA encourages both candidates to sign that pledge and to commit to a principle of transparency in the AG’s office.

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 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 first to seek an hourly fee arrangement.

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 which leaders in other states have signed the Transparency Code, visit AGsunshine.com.

Where Do Your Candidates Stand on Lawsuit Reform?

Texas once had the biggest lawsuit abuse problem in the country, but thanks to legislators in Austin, our state is now a leader in the lawsuit reform movement.

The changes made have helped:

That progress is important – and why it’s also important that we all learn where our candidates stand on defending that progress.  Legislative reforms to curtail lawsuit abuse have helped Texas become a state where businesses want to be, resulting in more jobs and a more robust economy. Texas is now home to more Fortune 500 companies than any other state in the U.S.

As Election Day approaches and you consider your options on the ballot, do you know where your candidates stand?   Before you head to the ballot box, make sure you know whether your candidates are willing to protect lawsuit reform and fight against attempts by some personal injury lawyers to undo those reforms.

Election Day is November 8. Early voting starts on October 24 and ends on November 4, 2022.

Click HERE to find out where your polling place is located.

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.