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TLR's 85th Legislative Session Update

Texans for Lawsuit Reform, April 18, 2017

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. 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.

A few examples of the legislation we are following this session include:

HB 1774 – the TLR-backed consumer protection bill that 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 (SB) 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.

SB 827/ HB 1463 – which will rein in unnecessary lawsuits arising from easily remedied architectural inadequacies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. TLR supports this bill.

HB 719 – a problematic bill 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. TLR opposes this bill.

HB 2301 – which 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. TLR supports this bill.

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 initiated this bill.
SB 42 – which will enhance the security for courthouses and judges in the state. TLR supports this bill.

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 supports this bill.

SB 179 & 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 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.

We are also engaged in several bills that impose a one-way grant of attorney fees. Generally, TLR thinks provisions for attorney fees in statutes are unwise, but we have a firm position that any bill that does grant attorney fees should make attorney fees reciprocal – that is, “loser pays.”

For a bit more detail on TLR’s priority legislation – the hail litigation reform bill – the bill authors, Sen. Kelly Hancock and Rep. Greg Bonnen, have worked tirelessly with interested parties throughout the process. The resulting legislation 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.

As it has over the last 20 years, common-sense tort reform continues to unite Texas’ leadership. Gov. Greg Abbott called for stopping weather-related lawsuit abuse in his State of the State Address in January, and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has listed it as one of his top ten priority items for this Legislative session. Speaker Joe Straus, a longtime advocate for reasonable tort reforms, selected strong leadership for the House Insurance Committee, which is chaired by veteran tort reformer Rep. Larry Phillips.

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.

If you haven’t already, please visit our website to learn more about weather-related lawsuit abuse. It’s not too late to contact your lawmakers to urge them to shut down the trial lawyers’ latest jackpot justice scheme by supporting SB 10 and HB 1774.

Thank you for your continued support and for helping to ensure that Texas remains the beacon for civil justice reform in the nation.