Tort reform works, especially for plaintiffs

The SE Texas Record Feb. 19, 2011, 11:17am

When we talk about tort abuse and tort reform, we tend to focus on the economic impact on society at large.

That's the cost to taxpayers of maintaining an overburdened court system, the cost to businesses and its employees of lawsuits that divert and devour productive resources, and the cost to our citizens of diminished opportunity that results from an unfriendly business climate.

There's another cost that's easily forgotten because of our indignation towards plaintiffs who perpetrate abuse in pursuit of jackpot justice. That's the cost to plaintiffs with legitimate grievances--for whom justice is delayed, and even denied--when our courts bog down with bogus claims.

A recent report from the Texas Civil Justice League (TCJL) confirms that tort reforms enacted in 2005 have been especially beneficial to the genuinely afflicted.

S.B. 15 obliged plaintiffs with asbestos and silica claims to provide nominal medical evidence of malignancy in order to have their lawsuits moved to an active docket. This reasonable requirement has had a stunning effect on multi-district litigation logjams.

"A great majority of the cases in which a plaintiff has alleged a nonmalignant disease have not filed the report necessary to move off the 'inactive docket,' so these cases are not consuming much of the MDL's time," the TCJL reports. "These cases should not have been filed in the first place, and one goal of S.B. 15 was to set these cases to the side, at least temporarily."

The sidelining of nonmalignant cases has expedited the processing of claims from plaintiffs who can document their maladies. As of last August, there were 7,959 cases on the asbestos docket, only 1,517 of which were active.

The active cases are moving forward faster. Thanks to the reforms enacted by our legislature, our state now is friendly to business interests and litigants needs. In Texas, there's proof that a strong economy and swift justice should go hand in hand.

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