Texas House supports bill that could undo high court's recent Entergy decision

Marilyn Tennissen May 14, 2009, 9:39am

Texas Capitol in Austin

The victory may be short lived for tort reform groups celebrating a Texas Supreme Court decision that work site owners could be protected from workplace-injury lawsuits.

Only six weeks after the high court's ruling in Entergy v. Summers, the Texas House gave preliminary approval to legislation that would undo the decision.

In a 75-69 vote, House Bill 1657 passed Wednesday, May 13. It faces another vote before it can be sent to the Senate.

Last month, the state Supreme Court considered whether a contract employee injured at a work site can sue the site owner for negligence if the owner has workers' compensation insurance.

On April 3, the court decided that the worker did not have the right to sue because the law does not explicitly prohibit a work site owner like Entergy from being considered a general contractor. General contractors are protected from workplace injury suits.

The court's decision was hailed by Richard Trabulsi, president of Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

"The Texas Supreme Court has done exactly what a court is supposed to do. They have ignored a firestorm of criticism from personal injury trial lawyers and followed the law as written," Trabulsi said in previous reports.

"Courts should always interpret statutes to mean what the words of the statute plainly say, just as the Court did today."

But many in the Texas House, with the support of trial attorneys, said the Texas Supreme Court overstepped its bounds and tried to make law in the Entergy case.

According to the Austin American Statesman, most Democrats in the house voted for HB 1657 while most Republicans voted for it. The paper stated that there were exceptions, including Democrats Chuck Hopson, Eddie Lucio III, Tara Rios Ybarra, Patrick Rose and Mark Strama voting against the bill.

Republicans Dan Gattis, Mike Hamilton, Bryan Hughes, Todd Smith, Burt Solomons, John Smithee and Beverly Woolley voted for it.

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