Tort Reform: Worth Touting
Comments by former Texas governor Ann Richards’s state officials about Gov. George W. Bush’s record on tort reform are misleading. They distort documented public records detailing almost $3 billion in savings to Texas consumers as a result of tort reforms [“Experts Strongly Dispute Consumer Savings Claim,” news story, Feb. 10].
J. Robert Hunter’s recent study on insurance savings, cited in this article, confused insurance rate reductions and insurance premium is the total amount paid for insurance. Instead of addressing proven rate reductions, Hunter focused on differences in insurance premium levels between Texas and non-tort reform states. This comparison is flawed because premium amounts reflect both increased insurance coverage on existing assets as well as new coverage as our economy has expanded since 1995. Insurance rates in Texas have gone down.
Critics have described tort reform as reducing injured parties’ rights to sue. This is wrong. Legitimate lawsuits continue to go forward in Texas, but out-of-state lawsuits, frivolous lawsuits and notorious practices such as venue shopping for favorable judges have been reduced. Reforms have also capped campaign contributions to state Supreme Court judges and extended protections to retired and volunteer physicians, enabling them to work for free in clinics for the poor.
These reforms have brought Texas back into the mainstream of American civil justice to the chagrin of a handful of wealthy, politically connected trial lawyers and a few consumer groups that refuse to acknowledge that the explosion of litigation in America is harmful to consumers and to our society.