Texas Gov. Rick Perry delivers the State of the State Address to both chambers of the Texas Legislature at the Texas State Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 8.
AUSTIN - Although the state is facing a budget deficit, Gov. Rick Perry on Tuesday said the Texas economy and jobs have been helped by the state's legal climate.
In his annual State of the State address to both chambers of the Legislature, Perry said the Texas economy remains strong, and pledged to continue upholding the principles that have helped Texas lead the national economic recovery and add more new jobs than any other state in 2010. The Republican governor said that includes keeping taxes low, maintaining a predictable regulatory climate and fair legal system, and cultivating a skilled and competitive workforce.
"As we increase the opportunity inherent in our economy, let's protect that opportunity by increasing the accountability, transparency and efficiency of our legal system as well," Perry said.
"We applaud Gov. Perry's dedication to maintaining a legal climate in Texas that is based on common sense and fairness," Linda McKenna, president of Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse said in a statement. "Lawsuit reforms have increased access to health care, injected fairness into our courts, and helped attract businesses and jobs to the Lone Star State."
Perry said the state would benefit from a change that would make losers of lawsuits pay legal expenses.
"Texas needs a 'loser pays' component in our legal system, in which those who sue and lose are required to pay the court costs and legal expenses of those they sued," the governor said.
"Texas is one of a very few states who don't have an 'early dismissal' option for obviously frivolous lawsuits...but we should. We need to make our system more accessible to the little guy ..."
He said the system would expedite trials and limit discovery costs for lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000.
"These loser pay legal reforms would further improve the legal and employment climates in our state, and impart even more energy, stability and security to our economy."
He also praised the effect of tort reforms enacted in Texas in 2003.
"We've reformed our legal system to cut down on frivolous lawsuits, so employers and doctors don't spend all their time in court," Perry said. "Since tort reform took effect, more than 26,000 medical license applications have been received, and 33 counties got their first emergency room physician."
During the speech, Perry mentioned Dr. Javier Cardenas, an obstetrician/gynecologist who returned to his hometown of McAllen in South Texas to practice medicine, "thanks to tort reform."
"He represents all those doctors who are able to practice medicine in our state without the ever-present threat of a frivolous lawsuit," Perry said. "Those doctors represent better access to care, a higher quality of life, and, more importantly, lives saved."
McKenna said CALA looks forward to working with the governor to make sure reforms are not overturned.
Additional incentives should be passed that will "further ensure we have a civil justice climate that is based on fairness, not greed; and one that ensures justice is not delayed or denied for those who are truly injured," McKenna said.
"Common sense lawsuit reforms will continue to bolster Texas' no-nonsense view of frivolous lawsuits and abusive legal practices," she said.
Texas is facing a budget shortfall of at least $15 billion. Republican leaders are vowing not to raise any new taxes to make up the shortfall. The governor has proposed consolidating some state agencies and eliminating a few altogether.
Does Texas need a 'loser pays' component in our legal system? Vote in our online poll on the Southeast Texas Record homepage.