Last minute rush to avoid needed lawsuit reform

The SE Texas Record Sep. 14, 2011, 2:29pm

What does a Louisiana man with a marsh-buggy boo-boo have in common with a Jefferson County woman with an infected breast tattoo? What do both have in common with a China, Texas, woman assaulted by a peripatetic cow?

They all have odd pretexts for tort cases, but what else do they have in common?

They're among the five dozen plaintiffs whose crafty lawyers managed to get in under the wire at the Beaumont courthouse Aug. 31, the last day to file a lawsuit before the new "loser pays" law went into effect.

If they should happen to lose their cases and the suits are found to be without merit, these last-minute litigants won't have to worry about paying the court costs and attorney fees of the defendants targeted.

Was it sneaky-clever to file on the last day of August, one day before the long-awaited reform bill became law? Their rush to file in advance of that law makes you wonder about the merit of these deadline dandies.

Fifty-nine lawsuits were filed that day, 44 of them for personal injury claims. If the plaintiffs in these cases lose and the claims are found to be frivolous, they would be the last of the losers who don't have to pay.

They could also be the last of the cost-free losers who brought unreasonable claims and declined reasonable settlement offers. They could be the last to suffer no real consequences for unreasonable actions or to benefit from the perverse incentives that once compelled innocent defendants to acquiesce to unreasonable demands.

Who knows how long these last 59 loser-doesn't-pay cases will drag on in court? They could meander through the Texas legal system for years to come.

But there won't be any more of them from Sept. 1 forward. Losers will pay when it's clear they've tried to game the system, and supposed plaintiffs better be careful to not file feeble claims.

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