Reform works for Texas: Will your candidate work for reform?

The SE Texas Record May 23, 2012, 9:11am

By Court Koenning

The long-anticipated Texas primary election is now right around the corner. On May 29, Texans will go to the polls and choose the candidate they believe will make Texas a better place to live.

Maybe the candidate you will vote for has promised to strengthen the economy, improve access to health care or create jobs – each equally important to the continued success of our state.

But do you know whether your candidate will protect the one thing that directly impacts all three of those critical issues? Is your candidate willing to protect lawsuit reform and fight against attempts by some personal injury lawyers to undo those reforms when the Legislature meets in 2013?

Texas, which once had the biggest lawsuit abuse problem in the country, is now a leader in the lawsuit reform movement. The changes we've made have helped create and retain jobs, allowed small employers to flourish, brought balance and fairness to our courts, and dramatically improved access to health care, especially in many underserved areas of the state.

According to a report by the Perryman Group, approximately 8.5 percent of Texas' economic growth since 1995 is the result of lawsuit reform and the economic gains attributable to these reforms include 499,000 permanent jobs. Because of the strides we've made, employers want to locate here, resulting in more jobs and a stronger economy.

We have also attracted a record number of new physicians. Since the passage of medical liability reforms in 2003, Texas has added 10,000 new doctors, including those in high-risk specialties like neurosurgery, emergency room care and obstetrics. Before these reforms, medical liability insurance premiums were so high some physicians had no choice but to significantly cut back services to their patients or leave the state.

Today, because of our remarkable progress, Texas is a national model for lawsuit reform.

Many states are still plagued by unjust and unpredictable legal climates, and residents are paying the price. In New York, OB/GYN physicians stop practicing by age 48 on average, citing out of control medical liability costs.

And in West Virginia, hundreds of jobs were lost when Chesapeake Energy canceled plans to build a regional headquarters there because of the state's overly litigious environment.

When lawsuit abuse runs rampant, employers end up using their financial resources to fight frivolous lawsuits instead of creating jobs, and most small businesses are one lawsuit away from going out of business entirely.

The bottom line is: we all pay and we all lose when our civil justice system is abused.

Not only does lawsuit abuse prohibit employers from providing the jobs our economy desperately needs, but healthcare consumers can have difficulties finding access to quality care. Moreover, consumers pay higher prices as the excessive costs of liability get tacked onto the costs of goods and services.

On May 29, we will be selecting the candidates that will potentially be serving us during Texas' legislative session in 2013. Due to redistricting and legislator retirements, many of our lawmakers will be new to Austin and they may be unfamiliar with how lawsuit reform has transformed this state.

It's our job as voters to make sure our candidates know why protecting these reforms needs to be the number one priority. Now is the time to ask your candidate: "Will you work for lawsuit reform?"

Texas has fought a long, tough battle to get where we are today. It is critical that candidates and then our newly-elected legislators continue the fight for smart, common-sense lawsuit reforms.

It is paramount that lawmakers stand ready to defend against efforts by a small cadre of very vocal and aggressive personal injury lawyers who would like nothing more than to roll back reform in Texas.

Court Koenning is with Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.

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