Posts Tagged ‘CALA in the News’

Texas firm’s ‘Serial Killer’ ad has truckers up in arms

Via the Southeast Texas Record

By Marilyn Tennissen

A Texas law firm’s recent ad in a national magazine has the trucking industry in an outrage. serial killer

The ad calls truck drivers “serial killers,” and urges individuals that have been involved in wrecks with big rigs to contact Villarreal & Begum Law Firm in San Antonio to file lawsuits against truckers and trucking companies.

Running in the men’s magazine Maxim in June, the ad shows a red 18-wheeler with the tagline “Serial Killer” above it and states “3,561 people died on America’s highways last year. Another 2.36 million were injured. You need a law firm you can Trust. You need Experience. You need Strength. You need Villarreal & Begum. …”

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas chair Jill Shackelford called the ad “tasteless.”

“Even in a state known for embracing legal reform, lawyers will continue to troll for lawsuits,” Shackelford said in a statement.

In addition to legal reformers, the ad drew the ire of trucking industry groups. villareal & begum

A spokesman for the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association said the ad “defames” an occupation that performs a critical service to the country, and called it “one of the most offensive injury attorney advertisements we’ve ever seen.”

An industry forum, The Trucker, picked up on the ad and it went viral, eventually causing major truck stop chains to remove the magazine from their shelves.

After receiving complaints, Maxim said it is “aware of and appreciates the wide readership of truckers,” and is taking “aggressive action” to remove the advertisement.

“In the June 2014 issue of Maxim, a legal firm ran an advertisement about truckers that was offensive,” wrote the magazine staff in a statement. “The ad in Maxim does not reflect the beliefs or opinions of the people at this magazine …”

The magazine also said it had recently begun operating under new ownership, and that new procedures are being implemented “so that no such negative advertisement or editorial content will ever run in Maxim magazine.”

After the negative reaction to the ad, Villareal & Begum posted an apology on the firm’s website, admitting the ad was “in-artfully created” and the firm “could see how it may have caused our message to be misconstrued.”

The attorneys said it was never their intent to “disparage the hard working Americans that drive tractor-trailers for a living.”

“Our intent was to reach out to those individuals who have been involved in catastrophic accidents as a result of irresponsible drivers,” the site states.

“We recognize the service that truck drivers provide to this nation and acknowledge that most truck drivers are safe and responsible drivers. There are, however, few drivers that do not always live up to the standards promulgated by state and federal agencies and end up hurting innocent people who, in turn, deserve adequate representation. It is the victims of catastrophic trucking accidents that we intended to reach and not our intent to offend law-abiding citizens that drive tractor-trailers for a living. We apologize that the wording of our ad has offended you and your family. In response to your and others’ objections, we have instructed our marketing department not to use that ad in the future.”

Despite the apology, truck stop chains Travel Centers of America/Petros and Pilot Flying J pulled the Maxim edition from their stores.

In a statement, Pilot Flying J said the company “does not believe (the ad) accurately depicts professional drivers.”

The American Trucking Association, in a letter to Maxim, called the ad and the magazine’s decision to run it “absolutely appalling and outrageous.”

The association suggested that Maxim offer the industry complimentary advertising space in its next issue to run a “truthful advertisement” about the safety of the trucking business.

Lawsuit reform works in Texas, but there’s reason for concern

By Hazel Meaux

Special to the Star-Telegram

Texas’ economic prowess is common knowledge. We’re a beacon state for business investment and job creation, a credential recently burnished again by Chief Executive magazine.

For 10 straight years, America’s CEOs have graded states on their business climate, considering a wide range of concerns from regulatory issues, tort reform, workforce, public health and cost of living. Texas was recently named the best state for business for the 10th straight year.

It should come as no surprise that Texas’ efforts over the past decade to embrace lawsuit reform contributed mightily to our state’s ability to create jobs.

That same Chief Executive magazine ranking puts states like California, New York and Illinois in the bottom three. Why?

As Texas passed legal reforms to rein in abusive lawsuits and ensure our courts were used for justice, not greed, California took a different path.

By catering to personal injury trial lawyers, the state became a “judicial hellhole,” allowing abusive lawsuits to clog court dockets and forcing its taxpayers and small businesses to pay the price.

So it came as no surprise that Toyota recently announced it is moving its North American headquarters from California to Texas. The move will create more than $300 million in capital investment and bring 4,000 jobs to the Lone Star State.

Toyota is following the lead of several other employers in leaving California for Texas, and no doubt others will soon follow suit. As businesses from “judicial hellholes” like California, Illinois and New York choose to relocate and expand here in Texas, it’s cause for celebration, isn’t it?

Yes, but there’s also cause for concern.

That’s because the lawsuit abuse that plagues states like California isn’t constrained by state borders. In fact, the effects of lawsuit abuse and wildly burdensome regulations can be far-reaching.

Austin-based Whole Foods knows this all too well. Last month, a California federal judge refused to throw out a proposed class action lawsuit accusing the popular grocery chain for mislabeling some of its food products as “natural” when they contain evaporated cane juice.

California law forbids the use of such labeling if the product contains artificial ingredients, flavorings, colorings and/or chemical preservatives — even though cane juice is actually sugar.

The costs to Whole Foods to fight this absurd lawsuit, coupled with the unclear and unpredictable regulatory environment in states like California, end up costing all of us more at the checkout counter.

So, while the Texas Miracle continues to move our economy forward, California’s poor legal climate isn’t just running businesses out of that state — it’s hurting businesses and consumers in Texas and across the U.S.

Whether it’s Texas Gov. Rick Perry on his jobs and economic development tours of other states or other state leaders, business owners and consumers sounding the alarm, it’s time we all pushed back against lawsuit abuse.

If we don’t, California and states like it will export their abusive lawsuits, chilling economic growth, stifling job creation and costing hard-working Texans and Americans more.

Hazel Meaux is a board member of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

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Opinion: Stop lawsuit lenders’ predatory practices

Via the Austin Business Journal

Imagine borrowing $250,000 and two years later owing more than $500,000. That’s lawsuit lending.

Traditional loan sharks and pawnbrokers aren’t the only organizations that lure the cash-strapped into a loan with astronomical interest rates and unfair repayment terms. Lawsuit loan sharks offer money up front to plaintiffs in civil lawsuits, based on a potential settlement or award from their lawsuit. “Quick and easy” cash — often within 24 to 48 hours — may sound attractive to a plaintiff with an anticipated awarded judgment, but look closer.

Nothing is ever quick and easy. Lawsuit loans, operating without any consumer protection or regulation, can end up costing consumers nearly 100 percent of the loan in compounding interest and hidden fees over the course of a year. In some cases across the U.S., interest and fees on lawsuit loans climbed as high as 150 percent annually.

Year after year, Texas has proudly stood at the forefront of enacting common sense legal reforms. But, for the first time in my memory at least, other states are lapping us on an issue of critical importance to consumers.

What’s more, this is an issue on which both legal reform advocates and even some trial lawyers can agree. That’s a rare occurrence when it comes to reforming our civil justice system.

Perhaps it’s because lawsuit lending cases are so egregious. But, sadly, it’s likely because lawsuit lending victims are popping up more and more. These victims, who frequently stay under the radar, are starting to share their stories.

Take Illinois resident Debbie Crim, a 54-year old grandmother, who alleges in a $1 million lawsuit that a lawsuit lender charged predatory interest rates of up to 60 percent on loans totaling $108,500, and then came after her when she wouldn’t pay the loan shark’s $413,000 bill.

The legal reform advocacy website has an online calculator where plaintiffs can estimate the real costs of lawsuit loans based on the amount borrowed. The results, you’ll find, are eye-opening.

In many cases, the loan amount can end up exceeding any expected awarded judgment, leaving a plaintiff in a new and different world of hurt or facing another lawsuit like Crim.

Still, while other states, notably Oklahoma, Alabama, and Tennessee have advanced smart, pro-consumer lawsuit lending reforms, Texas is falling behind. Bills in the Texas Legislature have languished and never reached the governor’s desk.

Shouldn’t many of the same regulations and consumer protections that apply to traditional lenders also apply to lawsuit lenders? Citizen and business organizations such as Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, Texas Association of Business and League of United Latin American Citizens have been vocal supporters for reform at the Texas Capitol.

Why should Texas step up? Predatory lawsuit lenders simply should not be allowed to exploit consumers. That alone should be a sufficient reason to see the Texas Legislature pass a bill that clamps down on lawsuit lenders. Requiring that lawsuit lenders come under the same regulatory mechanisms as other lenders in Texas is only common sense.

We should also be concerned that these predatory lending practices may actually encourage more litigation and discourage some settlements, something that impacts consumers, employers and access to our courts. Lawsuit lending reform is just another way to ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed.

Let’s keep the pressure on state leaders to take action. It’s an issue on which businesses, consumer advocates, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse and even many trial lawyers can all agree. It’s time to bring some sanity and consumer protection to lawsuit lending.

Jill Shackelford is chairman of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.