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Houston Chronicle - Going to extremes
Wednesday, 24 May 2006
Why a survey indicating Texas is tops in limiting lawsuit judgments is bad news for consumers
IF Texans needed any evidence that the tort reform drive in the state has gone too far, they need only look at a study conducted by a pro-business think tank, the Pacific Research Institute. Although its purpose is to promote further efforts around the country to limit the number of lawsuits and size of judgments, the survey rankings suggest that the last major tort reform legislation passed in the Texas Legislature in 2003 has tipped the balance too far in favor of defendants... Alex Winslow, the executive director of the Austin-based consumer advocate group Texas Watch, says the state's new No. 1 ranking is nothing to crow about. "If your goal is to allow senior citizens and children to be abused without accountability, or to allow insurance companies to turn their backs on homeowners, or to allow big drug companies to knowingly peddle dangerous pharmaceuticals, then sadly Texas is the place for you," he said.

Editorial
Going to extremes
Why a survey indicating Texas is tops in limiting lawsuit judgments is bad news for consumers.
May 21, 2006

IF Texans needed any evidence that the tort reform drive in the state has gone too far, they need only look at a study conducted by a pro-business think tank, the Pacific Research Institute.

Although its purpose is to promote further efforts around the country to limit the number of lawsuits and size of judgments, the survey rankings suggest that the last major tort reform legislation passed in the Texas Legislature in 2003 has tipped the balance too far in favor of defendants. So far that Texas now has the lowest tort liability rating in the nation, followed by Colorado, North Dakota and Ohio. At the other end of the ranking is Vermont, followed by Rhode Island and New York.

Under Texas law, individual plaintiffs are limited to $250,000 in economic damages, although medical costs are not limited. Critics note that because legal costs of going to court in cases against well-represented corporations can easily exceed several hundred thousand dollars, non-wage earners cannot afford to go to court and few lawyers will take their cases.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appeared at a press conference in Austin touting the state's top ranking. The survey lauds the Lone Star State for "relatively low monetary tort losses and has enacted meaningful reforms in asbestos, junk food, jury service, government standards defense and rules of evidence." PRI, the institute that compiled the study, is funded by large energy, drug and tobacco corporations, as well as related family foundations, including one controlled by ultraconservative oil millionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. PRI has also functioned as a hired critic of global warming for its big business sponsors.

Opponents of Texas' limits on the amounts and types of damages citizens are allowed to seek drew opposing conclusions from the PRI report. Alex Winslow, the executive director of the Austin-based consumer advocate group Texas Watch, says the state's new No. 1 ranking is nothing to crow about.

"If your goal is to allow senior citizens and children to be abused without accountability, or to allow insurance companies to turn their backs on homeowners, or to allow big drug companies to knowingly peddle dangerous pharmaceuticals, then sadly Texas is the place for you," he said.

Texas Trial Lawyers Association President Marc R. Stanley called the survey "a wake-up call to Texans that the state's civil justice system is now far out of the mainstream ... ."

If Texas was once a playground for litigious plaintiff's attorneys, the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of their corporate counterparts. Instead, citizens are now being shut out of the civil court system by laws that effectively immunize special interests from responsibility for the consequences of their actions and products.

Instead of bragging about the state's extreme position on the tort reform spectrum, elected officials should consider future measures to level the legal playing field.
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/3878364.html

 
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Reckless Endangerment
BY: GRETCHEN MORGENSON
and JOSHUA ROSNER

Outsized Ambition, Greed and
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