Citizens group starts campaign against barratry
CORPUS CHRISTI — Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse has teamed with an unlikely partner in its quest to end barratry — a trial lawyer.
Well-known lawyer Bill Edwards joined the group Wednesday at a news conference announcing a campaign to inform the public about barratry, also known as case running or ambulance chasing. Barratry, illegal in Texas, is rampant in Nueces County, the group says.
“A lot of times I might not agree with our friends here,” Edwards said of the citizens group. “What we all want is a fair, level and honest judicial system. We all agree with that.”
Edwards and another lawyer, J. Mitchell Clark, have sued other lawyers accusing them of barratry. The cases are pending.
The citizens’ group campaign, “Put the Brakes on Ambulance Chasing,” includes a television ad (WATCH IT HERE and information cards available at local businesses. The commercial features a flashy trial attorney eyeing pedestrians on an uneven sidewalk, waiting for one to trip.
The local effort is part of a statewide campaign run by Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Edwards and Connie Scott, a board member of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, said they have heard stories of accident victims and their families being approached by lawyers at funeral homes and hospitals.
“Those who engage in illegal case solicitation show a horrifying lack of decency,” Scott said.
Lawyers and their employees cannot make unsolicited contact with potential clients either by phone or in person. Lawyers also cannot pay clients to sign with their firm.
The offense is a third-degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Written solicitations within 31 days of an injury also are illegal and are misdemeanors on first offense.
Attorneys also can face sanctions from the State Bar of Texas. The Bar doesn’t track barratry complaints.
Barratry is included in advertising and solicitation complaint statistics, which make up 1 percent or fewer of complaints annually, or 41 complaints last year. The advertising and solicitation category also includes complaints about such things as letterhead and signs.
To report barratry, call the State Bar at 1-800-204-2222 extension 9.