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Statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse Regarding Commercial Vehicle Lawsuit Reform Taking Effect on Sept. 1

AUSTIN, TEXAS—The following is a statement from Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (TALA) regarding House Bill 19, which is aimed at reining in commercial vehicle lawsuit abuse and takes effect Sept. 1, 2021.  The bill was passed during this year’s regular session of the Texas Legislature and signed by Governor Greg Abbott in June.  The statement may be attributed to Marla Mathews, TALA spokesperson.

“With House Bill 19, 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.

“With this reform, the state continues this important progress.”

Background on what led to HB 19

From fiscal 2008 to fiscal 2019, the number of motor vehicle lawsuits jumped 118 percent, according to the Texas Office of Court Administration. In contrast, other types of injury and damage cases decreased seven percent during the same period. 

Any truck or car with a company logo on it had become a target for abusive lawsuits, and as a result, insurance rates were skyrocketing, whether or not a company had been involved in an accident. That drove some trucking companies out of business. Nearly 88 percent of commercial carriers in Texas operate 10 or fewer vehicles, underscoring the fact that many of these employers are small businesses.

HB 19 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. The bill was authored by state Rep. Jeff Leach and sponsored by state Sen. Larry Taylor. 

TALA and Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) groups advocated for the bill during this year’s regular legislative session. 

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

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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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Barratry

KLBJ Radio Interview with Roger Borgelt

Texas’ civil justice reform law archives

From Appeal Bond Reform to Punitive Damages: Check out the civil justice reform laws that Texas has passed over the years. Learn more.

Letter to the Editor: Texas legal reforms need protection

Via the Southeast Texas Record

RE: Texas asbestos firms spending hundreds of thousands in 2014 elections, Southeast Texas Record, Oct. 16, 2014

Dear Editor, contract-signing

Legal reforms made in the Lone Star State over the past 15 years are always under fire from personal injury trial lawyers. From landmark reforms such as Prop 12 that brought more doctors and specialists back into the state to more recent reforms such as the “loser-pays” legislation passed in 2011, Texas has continually lead the way in creating one of the most fair and predictable legal climates in the country.

But trial lawyers won’t give up the fight to roll our state back to the days when Texas was once known as a “judicial hellhole,” and our civil court system was dominated by greed, not justice.

It’s up to each and every one of us to remain vigilant of these attempts to undo successful reforms. A citizen-led movement spurred lawsuit reform in Texas, and it will take everyday citizens, voters and business owners to ensure that reforms are protected.

Remember, stopping lawsuit abuse starts with you.

Sincerely,

Hazel Meaux, Board Member, Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse

5,800 frivolous lawsuits and counting

An inmate in Florence, Arizona has filled upwards of 5,800 federal lawsuits across the nation asking for $10 trillion in return.

The lawsuits that 62 year old Dale Maisano has filed are primarily in contest of the food served at the prison where he is serving a 15 year sentence for aggravated assault.

Doug Nick from the Arizona Department of Corrections assures that the inmates are being provided appropriate health care and nutrition.

To read more about how Maisano is passing his time in prison by filing frivolous lawsuits, click here.

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