AUSTIN – Texans for Lawsuit Reform sent out an email Tuesday, updating readers on bills of importance the group is following as the 85th Texas Legislature Session continues to unfold.
“TLR devotes significant resources including a team of four lawyers and TLR’s capable staff to follow thousands of bills as they move through every committee in both the House and Senate and on to the Governor’s desk for signature,” said Dick Weekley, TLR’s chairman and CEO, in the April 18 email.
“Throughout the process, TLR works with lawmakers, staff and stakeholders to ensure the legislation is precisely written to implement good public policy without negative unintended consequences to our civil justice system.”
Perhaps the most important bill on the group’s radar is House Bill 1774 – a TLR backed consumer protection bill that the group says implements common-sense accountability measures to stop rampant weather-related lawsuit abuse.
The bill passed the House Insurance Committee 6 to 3 and is now in the House Calendars Committee, which will determine if and when it is heard on the House floor. Its companion bill, Senate Bill 10, had a successful hearing in the Senate Business and Commerce Committee in early March, and has the votes to be passed in the Senate at the appropriate time.
TLR says the bill breaks the mass-litigation model that storm-chasing lawyers have used to crank out more than 36,000 lawsuits since 2012, while preserving a clear path to the courthouse for Texas policyholders with legitimate disputes against an insurer.
Other bills being followed by TLR include:
- SB 827/ HB 1463 – which TLR says will rein in unnecessary lawsuits arising from easily remedied architectural inadequacies under the Americans with Disabilities Act;
- HB 719 – a problematic bill, according to TLR, that would drastically increase the liability limits in healthcare liability cases, thus undoing part of the healthcare reform bill that led to increased access to healthcare for all Texans;
- HB 2301 – a TLR supported bill that will re-tool the statute governing affidavits used in lawsuits to prove the cost of medical care because the existing procedure is being abused by plaintiff lawyers;
- HB 1761 – which will modernize the statutes governing the Texas Supreme Court’s jurisdiction, allowing the court to decide any civil case that is important to the jurisprudence of the state. TLR initiated this bill;
- HB 2547 – which will increase the number of civil cases subject to the expedited-case procedure, thus reducing the time and cost of litigation, TLR says;
- SB 42 – A TLR supported bill that will enhance the security for courthouses and judges in the state;
- SB 409 – which will increase the jurisdictional limits for justice courts in order to increase access to the judicial system for people needing a quick and cost-effective resolution of a small civil dispute, TLR says; and
- SB 179 and HB 306 – which are known as “David’s Law,” for a teenager who committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied, and create mechanisms to stop cyberbullying of a minor. TLR says it has worked closely with the bill authors to ensure the legislation – which creates a very limited civil cause of action – is written so that it cannot be abused for ill gain by unscrupulous plaintiff attorneys, while also being an effective tool to deter cyberbullying.
TLR is also engaged in several bills that impose a one-way grant of attorney fees.
Generally, TLR says it thinks provisions for attorney fees in statutes are unwise, but maintains a position that any bill that does grant attorney fees should make attorney fees reciprocal – that is, “loser pays.”
“As it has over the last 20 years, common-sense tort reform continues to unite Texas’ leadership,” the TLR email states.
HB 1774 currently has 85 co-sponsors (76 votes are needed to pass a bill in the House), including the speaker pro tem, 21 committee chairmen, 19 vice-chairmen, and the chair and all of the officers of the House Republican Caucus.
SB 10 has 20 co-signers in the Senate, where 16 votes are needed to pass a bill. The bills have also been endorsed by many of the largest trade associations and economic development groups in the state, as well as businesses and families all over Texas, according to TLR.