Survey: Most Texans support tort reforms

Marilyn Tennissen Sep. 28, 2010, 10:15am

Texas voters believe the state's legal reforms have helped the state in health care, business and jobs, a recent survey reveals.

Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse on Monday released results of a poll which shows that any concentrated efforts to push a pro-lawsuit, anti-reform and anti-jobs agenda are out of step with Texas voters.

"This survey shows that any efforts to undo reforms or expand liability in Texas is out of step with what voters – across the state and across the political spectrum – want from leaders here," said Stephanie Gibson, executive director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse of Central Texas.

"Given what we heard from voters in this survey, we urge them to get to know their candidates and know where they stand on these important issues."

The survey results were released in the midst of a political season where the activities of a new group heavily funded by the incoming president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association have drawn attention to legal reform issues.

The TALA survey showed:

  • Seventy-eight percent of Texas voters believe the Legislature should protect reforms designed to reduce abusive lawsuits. Across political lines, Independents (80 percent), Democrats (63 percent) and Republicans (90 percent) called for lawmakers to protect reforms.

  • Two-thirds of respondents (67 percent) think more lawsuits against Texas businesses would have a negative impact on the economy and jobs. Sixty-nine percent of Independents, 83 percent of Republicans and nearly half of Democrats agreed.

  • Five in six respondents (83 percent) oppose a law that makes it easier to sue without having clear proof that a particular defendant caused the plaintiff's injury. Ninety percent, 86 percent and 75 percent of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, respectively, oppose the law.

  • Seventy-two percent of voters surveyed said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who accepted campaign contributions from personal injury lawyers while 9 percent would be more likely. Wariness of these contributions cut across party lines (78 percent Independents, 62 percent Democrats, 77 percent Republicans) and across the state.

    Bob Parker, Chairman of Bay Area CALA in Corpus Christi, noted that support for reforms cut across party lines and was strong across the state.

    "This survey shows that voters across Texas, and across party lines, support the legal reforms we've passed here and want lawmakers to protect those reforms, not create new ways to sue," Parker said in a press release.

    "Texas voters also know who benefits from junk lawsuits," added Linda McKenna, president of the Rio Grande Valley CALA. "When asked who would benefit most from changes that would make it easier to file lawsuits, 68 percent of Texans across party lines said: 'lawyers.'"

    Diane Davis, executive director of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, said her local group would encourage Texans to cast an informed vote in November.

    "Clearly, Texas voters know that our state has benefited from legal reforms passed here," Davis said. "Our lawmakers should work to protect, not overturn, these important advances and, as voters, it's up to us to know where our candidates stand so we can make informed choices on election day."

According to the survey, the majority of respondents (62 percent) think recent legal reforms have been a good thing because they have:

  • Helped bring thousands of new physician specialists to Texas

  • Allowed hospitals to provide expanded medical care

  • Reduced questionable lawsuits so people with legitimate malpractice claims can have their cases heard

  • Reduced abusive lawsuits

  • Helped Texas attract business and jobs

  • Brought more fairness to Texas courts

    "Texans know reform works and they want Texas lawmakers to do all they can to protect it," said Michelle Martin, executive director of CALA Houston.

    The findings are from a telephone survey of 501 randomly selected registered voters in Texas conducted Aug. 8-10 by the opinion research firm, Baselice & Associates Inc., in Austin. The margin of error for a sample of this size is +4.4% at the .95 test level.

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