CALA: Small businesses scorched by lawsuit abuse

By The SE Texas Record | Aug 12, 2013

By Garry Bradford

We’re in the midst of the quintessential Texas summer: hot days made better with a splash in a pool, and families heading out on vacations. 

But it’s not a summer holiday for Texas small business owners.

Just like our legendary Lone Star State heat can test your mettle, Texas small business owners face some heat of their own – a threat to their own livelihoods and to our economy – in the form of abusive lawsuits.

According to the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform, more than one-third of small business owners have been sued. Approximately seven in 10 small business owners say that a lawsuit would force them to reduce benefits for employees or hold back on hiring. And too often, small businesses are a target of abusive and costly lawsuits – and this hurts their ability to create new jobs.

In many cases, fighting a lawsuit, even one without merit, can be more expensive than settling out of court. Unfortunately, predatory personal injury lawyers count on this fact and file abusive lawsuits hoping their victim will settle – and line the plaintiff’s attorney’s pocket– rather than opt for a trial they cannot afford.

The impact extends to all consumers. More than 60 percent of small business owners take burdensome precautions to avoid lawsuits and say that these actions make their products and services more expensive. So, we all ultimately feel the heat in our wallets.

Our civil justice system only works when we use it as intended. That’s why Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, and CALAs across the state and nation, have declared these last few months “Small Business Summer.” The nationwide campaign recognizes how small businesses are impacted by lawsuit abuse.

Fortunately for the 350,000 small businesses in Texas – and the 2.9 million employees who depend on them – leaders here have pushed for and passed common-sense reforms. But changes to our laws only go so far. It’s up to us to protect the reforms we’ve passed here and to make sure, on a very local level, that our courts are used for justice, not greed. We can do that by supporting local leaders who support legal reform, and by serving on a jury when called.

What our small business owners know is that even in a reformed Texas, a single abusive lawsuit can still severely impact a business, or worse, cause it to shut its doors altogether.

When we work together to create jobs, not lawsuits, we can raise the heat on those who abuse the system to profit off the backs of small business owners. In doing so, we can truly make this summer and every season, a time for small businesses to thrive, grow and provide jobs and services to our communities.

Bradford is chairman of Bay Area Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). 

The Southeast Texas Record is owned by the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform.


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