Since 1994, TLR has worked to pass legislation to shut down job-killing lawsuit abuses and make Texas courts fairer and more efficient. TLR also works to protect reforms from being rolled back, and to stop abusive or needless causes of action from being introduced. From small steps to giant leaps, Texas has come a long way to become a national model for common-sense reforms. Follow the evolution of lawsuit reform in Texas, year by year.
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Shutting Down Abusive Commercial Vehicle Litigation
TLR’s primary focus in 2021 was shutting down abusive commercial vehicle litigation. Additional major bills included providing common-sense pandemic-related liability protections to businesses and healthcare providers that operate in good faith, closing a loophole in government contingent-fee contracting, and expanding Texas’ MDL panel.
Transparency in Government Contingent-Fee Contracting
TLR’s primary focus in 2019 was to prevent abuses in local government contingency fee contracting. Additional major bills included expanding and improving access to courts and creating transparency in advertising for legal services. TLR also worked on bills improving and adjusting the motion to dismiss statute, Texas Citizens’ Participation Act, Judicial Campaign Fairness Act and Deceptive Trade Practices Act..
Shutting Down Storm-Chasing Lawyers
TLR’s focus in the 2017 legislative session was weather-related litigation reform, which stops storm-chasing lawyers from taking advantage of Texas property owners after natural disasters. TLR also worked on several bills related to the judiciary, including judicial candidate petition signatures, straight-party voting and court security, as well as procedural bills like Supreme Court jurisdiction and rules around collecting foreign judgments. 2017 also saw the passage of legislation to create a road block for the drive-by lawsuit industry exploiting the Americans with Disabilities Act, which continues to be a problem around the country.
Fine Tuning Reforms
In 2015, TLR worked on several areas of reform, including additional asbestos litigation issues, punitive damages and interstate forum shopping. TLR also took initial steps toward weather-related litigation reform after learning about the widespread practice of attorney solicitation of property owners after natural disasters.
Building on Previous Reforms
During the 2013 session, TLR built on reforms to asbestos litigation, and began to address attorney ethics by supporting barratry reforms. 2013 also saw the passage of subrogation reforms.
TWIA Reform and Frivolous Lawsuits
During the 2011 legislative session, TLR focused on passing laws to cut down on frivolous lawsuits. These included a case dismissal mechanism and an offer of settlement provision, which allow a defendant to make a settlement offer early in the litigation process, reducing the time and expense of litigation. TLR also focused on legislation to create efficiency in other areas of civil litigation, including appeals of controlling questions of law, Texas’ barratry statutes, trespasser liability and expediting small civil cases. Additionally TLR helped reform the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which had nearly gone bankrupt because of abusive lawsuits filed by storm-chasing lawyers after Hurricane Ike.
Keeping Texas Ports Open for Business
When abusive lawsuits threatened to shut down the dredging industry that makes Texas a hub for international commerce, TLR helped pass reforms that address lawsuits against dredgers, keeping Texas’ ports open and our economy thriving. TLR also helped pass additional asbestos litigation reforms as well as additional reforms to contingent fee contracts with government.
Making a Dent in Asbestos Litigation Abuse
Asbestos litigation is the longest-running mass tort in the nation, and a classic example of lawyer-driven lawsuit abuse. In 2005, Texas took a major step in limiting this abusive lawsuit industry with asbestos litigation reform. Texas also built on its reforms on interstate forum shopping.
Passing the Nation’s Most Sweeping Reforms
In 2003, TLR advocated our nation’s most comprehensive tort reform bill, House Bill 4, which addressed several areas of Texas’ legal system that were being abused. This historic omnibus bill helped bring fairness, efficiency and predictability to the legal system for plaintiffs and defendants alike. HB 4 serves as a national model for lawsuit reform, and addresses the areas of product liability, appeal bonds, Supreme Court jurisdiction, appellate court jurisdiction, class action attorney fees, proportionate responsibility, punitive damages, actual damages, judgement interest, offers of settlement, Good Samaritans, school employee liability, healthcare liability, migration of air particles, class action procedures, seat belt evidence, multidistrict litigation, lawsuits against architects and engineers and venue shopping.
Making Litigation Less Time Consuming
One of TLR’s goals is to make litigation less expensive and time consuming for everyone involved in a lawsuit. To that end, allowing appeals of controlling questions of law helps ensure early resolution of the critical issues in a case.
Stopping the Contingent Fee Boondoggle with Government Contracts
After the billion-dollar tobacco settlement shed light on the ill-conceived and extremely costly private attorney contingency fee contract with the state, the Texas Legislature passed a law to reform future contingent fee contracts with government. That session also saw reforms to lawsuits against firearms manufacturers, Good Samaritan laws and truthful employment recommendations.
A Step Toward Fixing Forum Shopping
TLR’s second legislative session built on its successful first by helping pass a reform to shut down some aspects of interstate forum shopping.
Passing the Governor’s Lawsuit Reform Agenda
TLR had a strong ally during its first legislative session in Gov. George W. Bush and Lt. Gov. Bob Bullock, who prioritized reining in Texas’ out of control lawsuit environment in order to grow our economy and create opportunities for families by working to pass TLR’s first legislative agenda, which included reforms to the Deceptive Trade Practices Act, judicial campaign finance reform, proportionate responsibility, punitive damages, frivolous lawsuits, public servant liability, healthcare liability, property owner liability and venue shopping.