Trial lawyers support White; Perry supports tort reform

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 23, 2010, 7:00am


As the Texas governor's race enters its final six weeks, trial lawyers and tort reformers have once again found themselves on opposite sides of the political aisle.

Trial lawyers have picked their man: Democrat Bill White. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, trial attorneys have donated more than $1.9 million to the former mayor of Houston.

Republican incumbent Rick Perry, on the other hand, has received an endorsement from Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

Beaumont's Walter Umphrey has given at least $50,000 to White's campaign, as have Joe Jamail of Houston and Harold Nix of Dangerfield.

According to the Dallas Morning News, Texas trial lawyers have donated $1 million to White through the Democratic Governors Association.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported last month, a political action committee funded by trial attorney Steve Mostyn has produced campaign ads that call Perry a "coward" for not debating with White. Perry has said he would only engage in a debate if White releases his financial records from when he served as Deputy U.S. Secretary of Energy.

It was under Perry and his predecessor, George W. Bush, that Texas enacted tort reform legislation that included a cap on awards for non-economic damages.

The governor received the endorsement from TLR at a campaign stop in Houston on Sept. 16. Perry's largest donor, Dallas homebuilder Bob Perry (no relation), is a member of TLR.

Perry stands by the reforms passed in 2003, but said too many businesses are still being hurt by frivolous lawsuits.

He is proposing an initiative to take the reforms a step further. In a press release, Perry said he would like to see a "loser pays" system, which would require the plaintiff to pay all legal fees if a court determines that a lawsuit is frivolous.

He also said Texas judges should be able to dismiss a clearly frivolous suit immediately to prevent legal bills from mounting. Legitimate lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000, he said, should have expedited trial settings and limited discovery to cut down on costs and promote swifter recovery of damages.

Election Day is Nov. 2. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 4.

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