The SE Texas Record Jun. 10, 2015, 11:54am


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.

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