Posts Tagged ‘Clips of Interest’

Abbott signs off on two new tort reform measures, ends asbestos double dipping

Via SE Texas Record

By David Yates

Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law two tort reform measures Tuesday, ending asbestos double dipping and lawsuits brought by out-of-state plaintiffs. In February, state Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, introduced House Bill 1492, relating to consideration of asbestos or silica trust claims in actions asserting asbestos or silica injuries. Texas tort reform groups, such as Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, campaigned the bill, frequently asking Texans to urge their legislators to support the measure and stop personal injury lawyers from “double-dipping.” Double dipping in asbestos cases occurs when personal injury lawyers sue a company and claim its products harmed their clients while simultaneously filing claims with asbestos trusts blaming other products for the same exact harm. The new law requires asbestos claimants to serve notices of their trust claims. Additionally, if a claimant received compensation from a trust for an asbestos-related injury that also gave rise to a judgment against a defendant but the plaintiff failed to provide notice, the trial court can impose sanctions, including vacating the judgment. Lisa A. Rickard, president of the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, commended Texas for taking a meaningful step to improve its civil justice system by enacting a law to guard against double dip asbestos claims. “This law will help ensure that the tort and asbestos trust systems work together fairly to compensate claimants while discouraging fraudulent claims. It will also help Texas manufacturing companies and protect jobs by ensuring that companies are not bankrupted by abusive claims,” said Rickard in a June 17 statement. “Texas joins a growing number of states including Arizona, Ohio, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Wisconsin that have enacted such laws to bring transparency to the asbestos compensation system.” Abbott also signed off on a court shopping reform, HB 1692, authored by Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas. TALA has maintained that HB 1692 ensures Texas courts remain open to Lone Star residents and don’t become burdened with out-of-state lawsuits that have no connection to Texas. The bill closes a loophole for lawsuits brought by out-of-state plaintiffs – a hole purportedly created last year when the Texas Supreme Court ruled a suit filed on the behalf of a Mexican national who died in an automobile collision in Mexico belonged in Texas. The decision, In re: Ford Motor Company, required the high court to interpret the definition of “plaintiff” in the Texas-resident exception to the forum non conveniens statute – a court’s discretionary power to decline to exercise its jurisdiction where another court may more conveniently hear a case. HB 1692 will amend the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code to read as follows: “In determining whether a case should be dismissed under this subchapter, the plaintiff’s choice of a forum in this state shall be given substantial deference, provided that the plaintiff is a legal resident of the state and the underlying litigation has a significant connection to this state.” The new law will ultimately redefine the word “plaintiff” in Texas civil law, ensuring the term no longer includes: – A counterclaimant, cross-claimant, or third-party plaintiff or a person who is assigned a cause of action for personal injury, or who accepts an appointment as a personal representative in a wrongful death action in bad faith for purposes of affecting in any way the application of this section; – An intervenor, beneficiary, next friend, or other derivative party to the plaintiff’s claim; or – A decedent’s estate, if the decedent was not a legal resident of this state at the time of death. TALA is a non-profit, statewide grassroots coalition dedicated to educating the public about the cost and consequences of lawsuit abuse, according to the organization’s website. The Record is owned by the Chamber.

Tort reform group offers cheers and jeers at end of Texas legislative session

via SE Texas Record

 

By DAVID YATES A Texas tort reform group is praising several bills that survived Texas’ 84th legislative session, but also says legislatures “failed to tackle” a key problem – storm chasing trial lawyers.

The session ended June 1, during which lawmakers considered a number of issues of importance to the legal reform community, according to Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse.

TALA cites several measures, including:

– Asbestos reform legislation: Rep. Doug Miller, R-New Braunfels, and Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, authored House Bill 1492 to curb fraud and abuse in asbestos litigation, stopping personal injury lawyers from abusing our legal system to fatten their wallets at the expense of those who have legitimate claims. TALA says the legislation will preserve the asbestos trust system, while simultaneously protecting legitimate asbestos victims, such as veterans;

– Court shopping reforms: Rep. Kenneth Sheets, R-Dallas, and Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, authored HB 1692 to reform Texas’ court shopping statues. HB 1692 ensures Texas courts remain open to Texas residents and that our courts don’t become burdened with out-of-state lawsuits that have no connection to our state, according to TALA; and

– Protecting small businesses: Rep. Ken King, R-Canadian, and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, authored Senate Bill 735 to protect discovery information of small business owners. The legislation requires a court to authorize discovery of net worth in a pending lawsuit. Prior to this legislation, TALA says personal injury lawyers would unilaterally discover the net worth of small business owners in an attempt to fatten their wallets.

“While we are elated by the positive and meaningful reforms made this session, legislators failed to tackle a key problem in Texas that is causing many Texans to lose their property insurance,” says TLR in a June 5 statement.

“Over the past several years, personal injury lawyers have begun a new practice similar to ambulance chasing. These ‘storm chasing’ personal injury lawyers have been going into areas affected by severe storms, and convincing homeowners to file questionable lawsuits against their insurers. Last year, Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse published an in-depth report on the abuse.”

TALA says to date, some 10,000 Texans have lost their homeowners insurance at the hands of attorney predatory tactics.

As previously reported, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, introduced legislation to address the issue. SB 1628 passed the Texas Senate but did not make it to a vote by the full House of Representatives.

TALA says the bill succumbed to an aggressive, negative public relations battle led by a small handful of storm-chasing lawyers eager to preserve this new line of litigation and see their abusive tactics unchecked.

“Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse organizations across the state will use the upcoming interim period to continue to educate citizens and state legislators about this problem with an eye toward addressing the issue in the next session,” says the TALA statement.