Archive for the ‘News’ Category

TEXANS AGAINST LAWSUIT ABUSE AND CITIZENS AGAINST LAWSUIT ABUSE LAUNCH “IT STARTS WITH YOU” AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

As a new study shows consumers are paying nearly $500 more for everyday goods and services each year because of lawsuit abuse, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) organizations are kicking off a summer-long campaign to remind Texans that they play a pivotal role in stopping lawsuit abuse. 

The digital media-based public awareness campaign – “It Starts With You!” – kicks off in June and runs through August.  It includes a legal consumer guide to help individuals know their rights and make smart choices when they hire a lawyer or consider filing a lawsuit.

The effort comes as a new CALA-sponsored economic impact study shows excessive lawsuits and related civil court expenses end up costing U.S. consumers $160.1 billion every year.  That translates into $488 more every American pays each year for goods and services because of lawsuits and over-suing.

“Our ‘It Starts With You’ campaign is designed to remind Texans that they can make important contributions toward stopping lawsuit abuse, which costs us all as consumers,” said Marla Mathews, a spokesperson for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse in Austin. “While Texas has enacted strong lawsuit reforms, we also know that you can’t legislate personal responsibility. It’s up to all of us to be smart legal consumers, to serve on juries when possible, and to do all that we can ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed.”

Texas lawmakers have made significant progress on lawsuit reforms during the past 25 years. Once the poster child for lawsuit abuse, Texas is now a model for common-sense reforms, which have contributed to the state’s business climate. Mathews said the “It Starts With You” campaign is a reminder of the role all Texans play in curbing lawsuit abuse. 

“We each have a responsibility to stop lawsuit abuse,” said Sergio Contreras, president/CEO of Rio Grande Valley CALA in Weslaco.  “And given that we all pay for abusive lawsuits in many ways, we should all be driven to do what we can to stop questionable lawsuits as quickly as possible.”

D’Anne Buquet, executive director of Bay Area CALA in Corpus Christi, said, “The legal system is designed to provide compensation for real injuries, and the more the system is abused, the less it’s able to help those who need it the most. While conflicts are inevitable in our society, a lawsuit should be the last resort, not the first choice.”

The legal consumer guide provides information to help legal consumers understand their rights, ask the right questions, and warn of some potential pitfalls. 

“In the end, being a smart legal consumer can be the best weapon against lawsuit abuse,” said Amber Pearce, chair of CALA of Central Texas in Austin.  “We hope our summer campaign will show Texans that the choices they make as a legal consumer can make a difference because It All Starts With You.”

Statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse Regarding Governor Abbott’s Approval of Lawsuit Reforms

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The following is a statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) regarding Governor Abbott’s approval of lawsuit reforms passed during this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature. The statement may be attributed to Marla Mathews, TALA spokesperson.

“With Governor Abbott’s signature on House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 6, Texas continues the state’s important work to support reforms that help ensure our civil courts are used for justice, not greed.  

“In the past 25-plus years, Texas lawmakers have made significant progress on reforms aimed at reining in abusive lawsuits and legal practices.  Once the poster child for lawsuit abuse, Texas continues to enact common-sense reforms, contributing to the state’s job-creating powers and business climate.

“By signing these two measures, Governor Abbott continues this important progress.”

HB 19 is aimed at reining in abusive lawsuits plaguing the owners and operators of commercial service and delivery vehicles in the state. The measure includes needed changes to clarify the rules for how these lawsuits are handled and to ensure that juries have the facts they need to reach fair verdicts. This law takes effect on Sept. 1, 2021.  

SB 6, the Pandemic Liability Protection Act, provides civil liability protections for employers, health care providers and non-profits that are following appropriate public health protocols. This measure took effect on June 14, 2021, the day it was signed by the governor.

For more on Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups, visit www.tala.com.

Statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse Regarding Legislative Passage of Lawsuit Reforms

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The following is a statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) regarding passage of lawsuit reforms during this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature.  The statement may be attributed to Marla Mathews, TALA spokesperson.

“With the passage of House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 6, Texas lawmakers continue the state’s important work to support reforms that help ensure our civil courts are used for justice, not greed.  

“In the past 25-plus years, Texas lawmakers have made significant progress on reforms aimed at reining in abusive lawsuits and legal practices.  Once the poster child for lawsuit abuse, Texas continues to enact common-sense reforms, contributing significantly to the state’s job-creating powers and business climate.”

HB 19 is aimed at reining in abusive lawsuits plaguing the owners and operators of commercial service and delivery vehicles in the state.  The measure includes needed changes to clarify the rules for how these lawsuits are handled and to ensure that juries have the facts they need to reach fair verdicts.

SB 6, the Pandemic Liability Protection Act, would provide civil liability protections for employers, health care providers and non-profits that are following appropriate public health protocols.

Both bills await Governor Abbott’s consideration.

For more on Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse groups, visit www.tala.com.

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Abusive Commercial Vehicle Lawsuits and Their Impact on Small Businesses (Video)

Bobby Jenkins, CALA Central Texas board member and president of ABC Home and Commercial Services, explains how his commercial vehicles are targeted by some personal injury lawyers for multi-million dollar payouts when involved in an accident.  Additionally, he discusses the impact these abusive lawsuits have on small businesses like his own and encourages the Texas Legislature to enact laws to help prevent these suits from happening in the future.  You can watch his video here

Forum: South Texas commercial vehicle operators, owners under attack

Special to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, April 16, 2021

This opinion reflects the recent trend in aggressive and excessive tactics used to take advantage of Corpus Christi employers. I write on behalf of several small businesses who declined to go public on the issue, knowing that some personal injury lawyers will retaliate against anyone who questions their abuse of the justice system.

Living through a pandemic has made us keenly aware of how important delivery and service vehicles are to our daily lives. From groceries to vaccinations, commercial vehicles have been the integral piece to getting us what we need when we need it most.

Unfortunately, some personal injury lawyers have set their sights on the very businesses that are getting us through this challenging time. And it is not only big 18-wheelers at risk, but also any car or truck with a logo on its door. These local small businesses providing essential services, such as plumbers, electricians, food delivery, waste pick-up, parcel delivery, and A/C repair operators are targets for lawyers searching for another big payoff. Even after our community experienced a historic freeze, leaving many grappling with extensive home repairs, owners and operators of commercial vehicles are dodging frivolous lawsuits as they work tirelessly to serve our neighbors. No matter how minor the accident or who was at fault, these employers are being attacked.

If you wonder why, consider this: Commercial vehicles operating in Texas must carry considerable liability insurance, ranging from $300,000 to $5 million. That means these businesses that employ your family and neighbors are irresistible targets to opportunistic personal injury lawyers. And we’re talking small businesses. Nearly 88 percent of commercial carriers operate 10 or fewer vehicles in Texas today.

A fleet operator in South Texas shared with me how their business has seen aggressive tactics by some personal injury lawyers such as immediately filing for the amount of our insurance or insinuating severe bodily injury occurred even though the damage to the vehicle was minimal and all plaintiffs were fine at the scene of the accident. Providing safe operations, safe drivers, and safe equipment is a priority to this business. If an accident is our fault, they want to pay the appropriate amount to make it right. The problem comes when the payout is above and beyond what is reasonable or supported by the facts of the accident, leading to more and more small businesses unable to obtain the insurance required to operate commercial vehicles.

This is a rapidly growing problem across the state. The number of motor vehicle lawsuits across Texas is increasing, while other types of personal injury lawsuits are declining. From fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2019, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits soared 118 percent, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration. Other types of injury and damage cases dropped seven percent during the same time.

In 2008 in Texas, a lawsuit was filed after one out of 17 vehicle accidents. In 2019, it was about one out of 10 accidents, which is an eye-popping 71 percent increase. The result has been a dramatic increase in insurance rates, and that has already put some commercial vehicle operators out of business.

There’s no question that there may be legitimate insurance claims to be made when accidents occur. But the increasing number of these lawsuits, and the questionable and abusive nature of many, stands to hurt everyone, from the consumer to the business owner.

Between small businesses laden with increased costs of doing business and an increase in consumers’ costs, we are all paying for the problem. It’s time to put a stop to these abusive lawsuits. It’s time for Texas lawmakers to pass House Bill 19 by state Rep. Jeff Leach.

D’Anne Buquet is the executive director of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, a non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness of the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse.

Jenkins: Lawsuit abuse is hurting operators of commercial vehicles

Special to the Austin American-Statesman, Mar. 18, 2021 

Groceries to your doorstep. Packages safely delivered. Toilet paper, face masks, holiday gifts, and now, vaccines are all seamlessly transported across the state and around the country. During the pandemic, we have all become keenly aware of the importance of delivery and service vehicles to our daily lives. And, so have personal injury lawyers.  

Searching for another big payoff, some personal injury lawyers have set their sights on commercial or company vehicle owners and operators. And it’s not just big trucks like 18-wheelers that are at risk. It’s any truck or car with a company logo on it, no matter the size or industry, and no matter how minor the accident or who was at fault. If your neighborhood pharmacy makes deliveries in a car with a logo on its door, that business is a potential target of a questionable lawsuit.  So is everyone from rideshare services to restaurant delivery vehicles to plumbers. 

In Texas today, nearly 88 percent of commercial carriers operate 10 or fewer vehicles. And many company cars and trucks on the road these days are operated by small businesses. These entrepreneurs create jobs in hundreds of Texas communities, large and small.  All are targets for opportunistic personal injury lawyers. 

Why? A commercial vehicle operating in Texas must carry substantial liability insurance, ranging from a minimum of $300,000 to a maximum of $5 million. Many have more than the minimum coverage, with layers of insurance reaching into the multimillions of dollars. With insurance and their own assets, these business have resources that are irresistible to some personal injury lawyers.

My business offers pest control and other home-related services in Austin, San Antonio, College Station, Bell County and Corpus Christi. Our technicians drive hundreds of thousands of miles in our company trucks. Our drivers complete safe driving training regularly. Our vehicles are maintained on a set schedule, and we have an excellent safe-driving record across our communities. But, increasingly, the threat of lawsuits impacts our business planning.

Motor vehicle litigation is increasing across Texas, while other types of personal injury lawsuits are decreasing. According to the Texas Office of Court Administration, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits climbed 118 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2019. During the same period, other types of injury and damage cases decreased seven percent.

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed after one out of 17 vehicle accidents in Texas. In 2019, that ratio was about one out of 10 accidents – a 71 percent increase. In some cases, owners and operators of commercial vehicles are being sued even when they are not at fault.  And rules are not being applied uniformly so sometimes important evidence is not allowed to be admitted at trial.

As a result, insurance rates are skyrocketing – and that has already driven some trucking businesses out of business.   

While there may be legitimate insurance claims to be made when accidents occur, the growing number of these lawsuits, and the abusive nature of many, stands to hurt everyone, from the consumer to the business owner. 

The Texas Legislature should act quickly to rein in this abuse by passing reforms that clarify the rules for how these lawsuits are handled and that ensure juries have the facts needed to award fair verdicts. House Bill 19 by state Rep. Jeff Leach of Plano is among the key pieces of legislation that will help our courts achieve this needed balance.  Without immediate change, small businesses will continue to be saddled with increased costs of doing business, and we could certainly see more trucking businesses close.  And all of us will pay more for the goods and services we need and depend on. 

It’s time to put a stop to this lawsuit abuse.   

Jenkins is president of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin. He is a board member of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Leaders Applaud Legislation to Rein in Abusive Lawsuits Plaguing Delivery and Service Trucks and Cars in Texas

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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Contreras: Right to repair vs. frivolous lawsuits

By SERGIO CONTRERAS, Special to the Valley Morning Star:

The Texas Legislature during its 2019 session passed a law requiring school districts and other governmental entities to give architects, engineers and contractors an opportunity to correct work deemed to be defective after a construction project is completed.

The law is known as the Right to Repair act, and by its formal name, H.B. 2826. The law’s purpose was to mandate communication between local governmental entities, architects, engineers and contractors to jointly address areas of concerns and avoid costly litigation. It is unfortunate to report that, in fact, some predatory plaintiff attorneys are working with some area school districts to file lawsuits against contractors, architects, engineers and the many subcontractors who work with them in the construction of campuses across the Rio Grande Valley. In doing so, these attorneys – many of them based outside of the Valley – are working with their clients, the school districts, and local attorneys to evade the 2019 law in claiming that past contracts between the parties allows them to circumvent Right to Repair.

In doing so, they are denying area designer and builders the opportunity to work with school districts to properly address any perceived problems in the post-construction phase of project completion. It is also a dubious legal claim that is being questioned by state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg, as he has asked the state attorney general for an opinion on the matter. “Lawyers are trying to bootstrap themselves to older contracts, claiming they are grandfathered, and therefore not subject to the new law,” Canales said in a statement. “It’s possible these loopholes are not legal, and therefore, the contracts with the school districts are void as a matter of law.”

As an opinion from the AG is awaited, there is no doubt the impact these frivolous lawsuits are having on area contractors, engineers, architects and subcontractors. The cost of insurance premiums is soaring for Valley industries involved in school construction work, with many insurance companies no longer covering our region. One RGV architectural firm, ERO, reports seeing an increase of 360 percent in premiums in recent years. Deductibles are now upwards of $100,000 per claim in dealing with litigation.

Lawsuits against contractors also touch the many subcontractors they utilize, whom are local residents, local tax-payers, local small business owners that are the backbone of our region. One RGV construction company, D. Wilson of McAllen, wrote a letter to Canales stating that 85 percent of its contract revenue is assigned to local contractors and vendors. Wilson’s president and chief executive officer, Josue Reyes, noted in the letter that its history with just one area school district included 10 projects with over 200 subcontractors involved in the work.

The subcontractors include plumbers, electricians, and welders, your neighbors and friends, and their companies play a crucial role in the RGV economy. Frivolous lawsuits adversely affect their companies and employees just as it does for the general contractors who utilize their services. The continued operations of some local businesses will be in peril if the loophole to the Right to Repair continues unabated and some plaintiff lawyers and area school districts are allowed to go around the law.

The need is urgent in addressing this issue and we commend area legislators for their willingness to see to it that Right to Repair is followed. We urge area school districts to communicate with their contractors under current law and work in a cooperative fashion to make the necessary repairs and contain costs for everyone in keeping our local economy humming with jobs and growth.

Sergio Contreras is President/CEO of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse Leaders Laud Governor’s Call to Make Pandemic-related Lawsuit Protections an Emergency Issue for Legislature

New Poll Shows Overwhelming Support for Elected Officials to Respond to COVID-19 Relief – Not Personal Injury Lawyers

AUSTIN, TEXAS—Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) leaders are applauding Governor Greg Abbott’s designation of coronavirus-related lawsuit protections as an “emergency item” for the current legislative session, paving the way for swift action on a critical element of pandemic relief and recovery for Texas.

“Unless the Legislature takes action, abusive and frivolous lawsuits will present a serious threat to employers and health care providers – and will undermine our state’s economic recovery from this pandemic,” said Amber Pearce, chair of CALA of Central Texas in Austin. “We thank Governor Abbott for his actions, and we urge the Legislature to act as quickly as possible to pass such legislation.”

According to the Texas Civil Justice League, legislation is expected to provide civil liability protections for businesses and health care providers who are following appropriate public health protocols.

“As Texans work to rebuild and recover from the pandemic, the last thing they need to face is an abusive lawsuit,” said D’Anne Buquet, executive director of Bay Area CALA in Corpus Christi. “Small businesses struggling to keep their doors open shouldn’t have to operate in fear of predatory personal injury lawyers and frivolous lawsuits.”

The grassroots, small business and citizen-led lawsuit reform movement – including Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse organizations across the state – include COVID-19 lawsuit protections and reforms to rein in abusive and costly commercial trucking lawsuits as top priorities during this year’s Legislature.

The groups point to recent polling by the American Tort Reform Association (ATRA) that finds overwhelming bipartisan support for government aid to small businesses and agreement that lawsuits are not the solution to COVID-19 relief.

Nearly 60 percent of respondents to the ATRA survey say those harmed by the pandemic should get assistance from policies passed by elected officials, versus just 7 percent who say they should get payouts from lawsuits. Additional findings from the survey show a majority of voters polled agree law firms using PPP funds for lawsuit advertising is inappropriate, and 65 percent of respondents said personal injury lawyer advertisements are annoying and take advantage of people.

“Americans are tired of some personal injury lawyers lining their pockets at the expense of small businesses,” said Sergio Contreras, president/CEO of Rio Grande Valley CALA, based in Weslaco.

Despite the lack of public support for lawsuits related to COVID-19, personal injury lawyers’ advertisements have increased nationwide.

“The threat of lawsuits makes it more difficult to weather the pandemic, and it’s frustrating to see some personal injury lawyers receiving government relief loans to in turn use them for lawsuit advertising,” Contreras said. “We applaud Governor Abbott on his work to protect employers and health care providers from frivolous lawsuits and to keep Texas open for business.”

For more on Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, visit www.tala.com.

To read more on the survey released by ATRA regarding COVID-19 related litigation visit ATRA.org.

JENKINS: Stop abusive lawsuits plaguing owners, operators of commercial trucks and cars

Special to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Jan. 28, 2021 

Groceries to your doorstep. Packages safely delivered. Toilet paper, face masks, holiday gifts, and now, vaccines are all seamlessly transported across the state and around the country. During the pandemic, we have all become keenly aware of the importance of delivery and service vehicles to our daily lives. And, so have personal injury lawyers.

Searching for another big payoff, some personal injury lawyers have set their sights on commercial or company vehicle owners and operators. And it’s not just big trucks like 18-wheelers that are at risk. It’s any truck or car with a company logo on it, no matter the size or industry, and no matter how minor the accident or who was at fault. If your neighborhood pharmacy makes deliveries in a car with a logo on its door, that business is a potential target of a questionable lawsuit. So is everyone from rideshare services to restaurant delivery vehicles to plumbers.

In Texas today, nearly 88 percent of commercial carriers operate 10 or fewer vehicles. And many company cars and trucks on the road these days are operated by small businesses. These entrepreneurs create jobs in hundreds of Texas communities, large and small. All are targets for opportunistic personal injury lawyers.

Why? A commercial vehicle operating in Texas must carry substantial liability insurance, ranging from a minimum of $300,000 to a maximum of $5 million. Many have more than the minimum coverage, with layers of insurance reaching into the multi-millions of dollars. With insurance and their own assets, these business have resources that are irresistible to some personal injury lawyers.

My business offers pest control and other home-related services in Austin, San Antonio, College Station, Bell County and Corpus Christi. Our technicians drive hundreds of thousands of miles in our company trucks. Our drivers complete safe driving training regularly. Our vehicles are maintained on a set schedule, and we have an excellent safe-driving record across our communities. But, increasingly, the threat of lawsuits impacts our business planning.

Motor vehicle litigation is increasing across Texas, while other types of personal injury lawsuits are decreasing. According to the Texas Office of Court Administration, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits has climbed 118 percent from fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2019. During the same period, other types of injury and damage cases decreased seven percent.

In 2008, a lawsuit was filed after one out of 17 vehicle accidents in Texas. In 2019, that ratio was about one out of 10 accidents – a 71 percent increase. As a result, insurance rates are skyrocketing – as much as 30 percent in one year for some companies, and that has already driven some trucking businesses out of business.

While there may be legitimate insurance claims to be made when accidents occur, the growing number of these lawsuits, and the abusive nature of many, stands to hurt everyone, from the consumer to the business owner.

The Texas Legislature should act quickly to rein in this abuse and pass commercial vehicle lawsuit reforms. Without immediate change, small businesses will continue to be saddled with increased costs of doing business, and we could certainly see more trucking businesses close their doors. And all of us will pay more for the goods and services we need and depend on.

It’s time to put a stop to this lawsuit abuse.

Bobby Jenkins is president of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Austin. He is a board member of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.