Texas CALA groups advocate against proposals to lower mesothelioma standards

The SE Texas Record May 27, 2010, 8:46am

AUSTIN � Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse cautioned members of the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee that "no proof" lawsuits will wreak havoc on Texas' civil justice system, harm the state's reputation as a good place to do business, cost jobs and hurt Texas families.

"Texas has made tremendous progress in preventing lawsuit abuse, but that progress could be in jeopardy if we change our laws to allow lawsuits based on speculation rather than scientific proof," said Veronica Villegas, Executive Director of the Rio Grande Valley CALA.

During the last legislative session, personal injury lawyers pushed legislation that would have allowed them to bring asbestos lawsuits to court with virtually no proof of who actually caused the asbestos � related illness.

"Thankfully, this bad bill died in the Texas House last year, but we're still seeing aggressive efforts from some personal injury lawyers looking to weaken Texas' civil justice system and line their pockets at the expense of Texas jobs and employers," warned Diane Davis with East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse (ETALA).

Bob Parker, chairman of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse added, "Allowing 'no proof" lawsuits flies in the face of common sense and will lead to an upsurge in speculative lawsuits around the state."

Texas CALAs provided written testimony to the Committee encouraging Committee members to oppose efforts to lower the standards of evidence in asbestos-related mesothelioma cases, and protect Texas' job-friendly climate.

After several proposals to amend current law and lower these standards failed during the 2009 legislative session, the committee is readdressing the issue now as part of their interim activity.

"This change would open up a much wider range of large and small employers to litigation while cutting their very defense out from under them," said Stephanie Gibson, executive director of CALA of Central Texas.

"Proponents claim it's about protecting victims. But it's not. It's about using a dragnet to pull in more defendants and force them to the settlement table.

Gibson noted that the current law works for victims, and for Texas.

"Our current laws ensure that those who are sick from asbestos exposure are well- compensated and defendants are held responsible while applying reasonable, medically-based, scientifically-supported evidence standards to these cases," she said.

Michelle Martin, with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Houston, added, "It is common sense that a lawsuit should be based on proof that a person or business caused the injury, and we shouldn't accept anything less in our civil justice system."

"As personal injury lawyers continue to look for new ways to sue, lawmakers must remain vigilant to protect Texas businesses and our civil justice system," concluded ETALA's Davis.

"The civil justice reforms we've passed in Texas, have helped make our state a great place to live and work ... and that means more jobs and more opportunities for Texas families," Davis said. "We urge our lawmakers to keep Texas thriving and oppose any changes to Texas laws that would undermine our court system, delay or deny justice to those who are truly injured by asbestos, and threaten the employers and jobs that we depend upon."

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