Wentworth

State Sen. Jeff Wentworth's record on civil justice issues shows he favors the plaintiffs' trial bar despite his claims that he supports tort reform, according to recent report by a Texas legal reform group.

Texans for Lawsuit Reform released their review of the San Antonio Republican senator's voting record on March 1. In the report, the reform group claims the Republican lawmaker's record is "essentially equivalent to that of the Senate's most liberal member, Democrat Rodney Ellis of Houston."

The review of Wentworth's record "makes it clear that he is philosophically aligned with the plaintiffs' trial bar, a very narrow segment not only of Texas society but of the Texas Bar itself," TLR stated.

"There is no other way to explain why a Republican Senator would align himself with the handful of plaintiff trial lawyers who fund about 85 percent of the campaign expenditures for liberal and Democrat candidates in Texas elections," the report states.

TLR claims that in the 2009 and 2011 legislative sessions, and in the special session of 2011, Wentworth was the only Republican Senator who joined with the personal injury and mass tort trial lawyers on four important civil justice issues:

- Against effective reform of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (HB 3 in the 2011 special session). TWIA is a quasi-governmental body that paid millions of dollars in legal fees to a single plaintiffs' lawyer for doing little legal work.

-For repeal of the Texas Supreme Court's correct decision in the Entergy case, which confirmed that property owners could serve as their own general contractors, provide workers compensation insurance for workers on the job site, and avoid third-party lawsuits.

-For weakening the Texas Supreme Court's unanimous decision in the Borg-Warner case, which concerns junk science and causation in asbestos injury lawsuits.

-For repeal of the "paid-or-incurred" provision of HB 4. The plaintiff lawyers want to repeal the provision that prevents the recovery of "phantom" damages – that is, medical expenses that were "billed" but were not paid, are not owed, and will never be paid by anyone.

TLR states that in 2003, Sen. Wentworth was the only Republican Senator to actively campaign against Proposition 12, the constitutional amendment to place caps on non-economic damages such as mental anguish in medical liability lawsuits.

"Sen. Wentworth is the only Republican Senator in the past two decades who has introduced harmful bills that would have pervasively impacted the Texas civil justice system and the Texas economy," the report states. "Clearly, he introduced these bills at the request of plaintiff trial lawyers."

One of the bills is an expansive "private attorney general" bill that TLR claims would open floodgates of litigation against individuals and companies that do business in any way with the state of Texas. The other bill would allow plaintiff attorneys to recover their legal fees from defendants in many lawsuits, according to the report.

"In contrast, Senator Wentworth has not introduced lawsuit reform bills favored by the tort reform community, nor has he actively advocated for tort reform bills in the legislature," the report states.

"Senator Wentworth claims that he voted with TLR on over 90 percent of the bills we have advocated. The truth is that he votes with TLR on bills that are essentially uncontested at the time they get to the Senate floor. Either the bill is one that the trial lawyers and TLR have agreed on, such as the Barratry Bill in 2011 (SB 1716), or one that the plaintiff lawyers realize they cannot defeat and, therefore, release their friends to vote for the bill, such as the Omnibus Tort Reform Act in 2003 (HB 4).

"To prove the point, one simply needs to compare the senate-vote records of Jeff Wentworth and Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who has been called the most liberal member of the Texas Senate by Texas Tribune and who is a close ally of the personal injury trial lawyers. Only on one vote out of 20 votes on TLR-supported bills did Senator Wentworth differ from Senator Ellis (SB 717 in 1999)," the group stated.

TLR cited several bills to which Senator Wentworth refers when trying to show that he supports tort reform.

Comparison of voting record of Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) and Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) on bills advocated by TLR.

  • HB 274, Gov. Perry's Omnibus Tort Bill (2011)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 1160, Trespasser Liability Bill (2011)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 1716, Barratry Bill (2011)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • HB 1602, Maritime Venue Bill (2007)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 15, Asbestos Litigation Reform (2005)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • HB 755, Inconvenient Forum Bill (2005)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • HB 4, Omnibus Tort Reform Act (2003)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 178, State's Hiring of Contingency Fee Lawyers (1999)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 598, Y2K Computer Lawsuits (1999)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 717, Lawsuits Against Gun Manufacturers (1999)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, Against
  • SB 215, Good Samaritan (1999)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 220, Out of State Plaintiffs (1997)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis For
  • SB 25, Punitive Damages (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 28, Proportionate Responsibility (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 32, Venue (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 31, Frivolous Lawsuits (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • SB 94, Judicial Campaign Finance Act (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • HB 383, Protections for Public Servants (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis For
  • HB 668, Deceptive Trade Practices Act Reform (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For
  • HB 971, Medical Liability (1995)
    Wentworth, For
    Ellis, For

    Source http://www.tlrpac.com/press-release/sen-jeff-wentworths-tort-reform-record

  • More News