In this edition of the News of the Week: Senators take testimony on the response to the West disaster, the State Fire Marshal issues a report detailing ways to improve safety after West, nursing home residents face abuse and neglect at an alarming rate with little recourse for repeat offenders, and a video about the importance of class action lawsuits in protecting consumers. (more…)
Access to the civil justice system is a fundamental right. It is embedded in our constitution because no one is above the law and everyone should be held to account for their actions.
But, the folks over at the self-styled Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s PAC of CEOs and lobbyists just can’t seem to understand that.
In an effort to reinforce their failing agenda and scare candidates away from supporting meaningful accountability reforms that help Texas families and small businesses, TLR has released the “results” of a new push-poll that conveniently ignores the impact of their agenda on everyday Texans. Instead they attack lawyers … again.
Because they have no other option. The fact is that the vast majority of Texans believe they should have access to our courts when they are harmed. And, they want to be able to hire an attorney to represent their interests. Particularly when an insurance company treats them unfairly. (more…)
UPDATE: Texas Watch testified before federal regulators about the dangers forced arbitration poses to consumers. Our Director of Legislative Affairs Ware Wendell told Richard Cordray, the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), that forced arbitration “is flawed in many respects. It precludes class actions, is largely unappealable, has limited discovery, is subject to repeat player bias, is more costly for consumers, and is conducted in secret.”
He added: “We already have a dispute resolution system that we have all paid for. It is open and accountable, with well-established rules of procedure and evidence. The law must be applied strictly. And when errors are made, they can be corrected. It is called our court system.” Check out his full written testimony.
The CFPB has been studying forced arbitration and its impact on consumers and businesses. The agency released its preliminary findings during the Dallas field hearing. The next step is for the CFPB to complete its study and develop rules regarding its use. Make sure your voice is heard by taking action now. (more…)
With an apparently straight face, the self-styled Texans for Lawsuit Reform’s CEO Dick Weekley claims in a recent opinion piece published by the Washington Examiner that Texans are better off when corporate interests are free to cause needless financial, physical, and emotional harm without fear of accountability.
How can it be that eliminating accountability for polluters, careless nursing homes, insurance companies, Wall Street bankers, and big drug makers is good for the public? The answer is that it can’t be. (more…)
It was pretty much a pre-Starbucks world.
Back in February 1992, when Stella Liebeck ordered the 8-ounce cup of McDonald’s coffee that would famously spill and turn her, briefly, into a court-made millionaire — until the amount, the video reports, was lowered to about $500,000 — we were not the coffee culture we would become.
For those seeking reforms in the legal system since a jury tried to award Ms. Liebeck $2.9 million for the third-degree burns she suffered from the spill, little has changed despite efforts to cap multimillion-dollar verdicts like her original amount.
But when it comes down to the morning brew at the center of the case, a lot has transpired in the two decades since the lawsuit caused such an uproar. (more…)
As a young man, a falling tree struck Greg Abbott while he was jogging, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Until recently, Mr. Abbott, longtime Texas Attorney General turned gubernatorial candidate, hasn’t discussed the terms of a 1986 legal settlement he reached with the homeowner and a tree care company, which appears to have fairly and justly compensated Abbott for his economic losses, as well as his reduced quality of life.
But, on the political stage, Abbott has been a vocal supporter of legal restrictions that arbitrarily limit the right of Texans who are needlessly injured to seek the same type of fair compensation that Abbott received.
In an effort to justify this disconnect between his own experience and his political rhetoric, Abbott argues that someone who finds themselves in the same situation as he would be able to reach the same type of settlement he received. In fact, he recently said: “If there were someone jogging today, got hit by a tree today, suffered the same kind of accident today, they would have access to the very same remedies I had access to.”
This is a dangerously myopic view that ignores the reality that Abbott’s settlement was negotiated under the umbrella of a civil justice system far different than exists today. (more…)
The Supreme Court strengthened the hand of business in the session that comes to a close this week, making it easier for companies to defend themselves from the kinds of big lawsuits that have bedeviled them for decades. (more…)
Judge Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in 1997 that civil jury trials were headed to extinction.
“There are certain elites in this country who don’t trust juries,” Higginbotham, a Reagan appointee from Dallas, said at the time. “The future of our jury system is very much in danger.” (more…)
Governor Rick Perry has appointed Julia Rathgeber, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst’s Deputy Chief of Staff, as Texas Insurance Commissioner. Her appointment comes after Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman was not confirmed by the Texas Senate for a full term.
The Texas insurance market faces important challenges. With higher premiums, larger deductibles, and expanded exclusions, Texas policyholders are paying more and getting less. Policyholders deserve an insurance commissioner who will fight for them everyday by fostering a balanced insurance market in which prices are fair, coverage is adequate, and claims are paid in full and on time.
We are hopeful that Commissioner Rathgeber will work to restore balance to the market. And, we look forward to working with her to put Texas policyholders first. (more…)
After public concern over Insurance Commissioner Eleanor Kitzman’s anti-policyholder decisions during her tumultuous 21-month tenure, the Texas Senate has chosen to not confirm Commissioner Kitzman for a full term, according to numerous media reports.
Senator Glenn Hegar, Chair of the Nominations Committee, said, “Gauging the votes in the last couple of days, it does not appear that there is a majority on my committee or on the Senate floor for that confirmation.”
As a result, Kitzman left office at the end of the recently concluded legislative session, reportedly confirming to her staff that Monday was her last day. (more…)