Friend of the Court
If you’ve been around the world of TLR for a while, you likely know by now that we are constantly studying how the lawsuit reforms that Texas has passed over the last 25 years are affecting our legal system, and in turn, the lives of Texans.
We speak regularly with attorneys and judges who work with these laws every day. Sometimes the legislation is applied in ways that were never intended by lawmakers. When this happens, as was the case this session with the SLAPP law, we work with stakeholders to find a legislative solution that clarifies the legislation and addresses the misuse of the law.
Other times, the reforms Texas passes are challenged in the course of litigation. When that happens, we stand ready to provide context and vigorously defend the intent and application of the legislation through amicus briefs.
Amicus curiae is Latin and literally translates to “friend of the court.” These briefs are provided by people who are not party to a lawsuit, but have an interest in its outcome.
TLR has submitted many amicus briefs over the years, including in a lawsuit filed by storm-chasing lawyer Eric Dick after Hurricane Harvey. This cookie cutter lawsuit was filed 30 days after Hurricane Harvey made landfall, alleging the insurance company failed to pay the policyholder’s claim on time. Since September 2017, Dick has filed about 40 other such lawsuits against 30 insurance companies.
As the brief notes, “the face of the Plaintiff’s pleading in this case shows that the date of loss was exactly 30 days before the date the lawsuit was filed… The defendant insurance company could not have violated the Texas Insurance Code’s prompt payment of claims statute in that amount of time, given that the statute gives the insurance company several weeks to acknowledge, investigate, and pay a claim before a statutory violation occurs.”
Additionally, the brief notes that House Bill 1774, which the Legislature passed in 2017 to shut down lawsuit abuses by storm-chasing lawyers, was designed specifically to address cases like this.
“…the new law (HB 1774) is designed to protect individuals from storm-chasing attorneys who seek to profit from their misfortune while, at the same time, leaving policyholders with substantial remedies against insurance companies that fail to pay claims on time and in full.”
Earlier this month, the Harris County trial court entered a judgment against Dick’s client in the case, finding that Dick had failed to show that the property damage he attributed to the storm was covered by the insurance policy.
Amicus briefs are just one way TLR fights to preserve the hard-won lawsuit reforms passed by the Texas Legislature. With strong legislative advocacy and public education, we are keeping up the fight to keep Texas as the national example of successful, common-sense lawsuit reforms.