It's one or the other

The SE Texas Record May 3, 2008, 7:30am

Where jackpot justice thrives, economic growth does not.

That's the real message of "A Texas Turnaround: The Impact of Lawsuit Reform on Business Activity in the Lone Star State," a study released this week by the state's leading tort reform group.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform paid for the report, in which a Waco economist makes a convincing case that tort reform has been good for the state and local economy. A positive result of reform is that businesses are investing more, creating more high-quality jobs and raising the standard of living for all Texans.

Southeast Texas, long shunned by entrepreneurs because of its reputation for sharp-toothed trial lawyers, has been a particular beneficiary. According to the report, lawsuit reforms have resulted in $1.75 billion in increased economic activity and 8,300 new jobs in Beaumont-Port Arthur since 1995. That's in spite of the current struggles with some frivolous local litigation, documented on these pages.

Texas' tort reform success-in-progress story isn't as much about financial numbers as it is about individual business owners who must make the growth and risk capital decisions.

Large-scale, statewide improvements such as medical malpractice reform and the election of non-activist supreme court justices have had a trickle down, positive impact on the Golden Triangle. But our communities won't fully utilize their economic potential until some parasitic local attorneys lose their strangle hold of influence in Jefferson and Orange County courts.

As one example, consider the plight of a local small business like KT Maintenance of Port Arthur, currently defending a frivolous suit by a cross-dressing employee angry over his bathroom privileges. Whether the sad details of the case make you laugh or cry, the company is paying thousands in legal fees it can't easily afford for a matter that doesn't seem to belong in court.

In business there's a measuring stick. If local courts inflame the anti-business fears of executives, businessmen will look
elsewhere when it is time to grow and expand.

Texas' economic star is starting to shine. We don't want it to be the dimmest bulb in the sky.

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