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Eye on Texas Blog

Special Interest PAC Can’t Handle the Truth

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.

Why?

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…)

Latest Headlines

Despite Crises from Salmonella Outbreak to West Blast, Rick Perry’s Pushed Freer Rein for Business

Some people saw it as a critical health and safety issue: Up to 20,000 farm workers per year were getting poisoned by agricultural pesticides, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and new regulations were needed to protect them.

But there was another side to the argument, and Rick Perry took it.

“American business in general, and American agriculture specifically, have had enough of bureaucracy at both the federal and state levels, but especially bureaucracy out of Washington,” Perry said at a congressional hearing. “The men and women who feed and clothe this nation are suffocating under the weight of mounting federal regulations.” (more…)

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WEST EXPLOSION: It could happen again

In the ritual of modern disaster politics, catastrophes are closely followed by elected officials on the scene to praise local grit and promise swift relief.

Serious remedies and sweeping reforms, in many instances, arrive next.

The aftermath of the April 17 explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. proved in part to be no exception. Within days of the blast, President Barack Obama came to McLennan County. So did Gov. Rick Perry and both U.S. senators from Texas.

Relief has come in the form of government checks. The town is rebuilding.

Major reforms, however, have yet to be designed, much less implemented. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

TDI Should Back Safer Roads, Industrial Accountability & Better Insurance Options

Earlier this year, the previous Insurance Commissioner was forced to vacate her position when the Texas Senate chose not to confirm her appointment in part because of her unwillingness to consider the needs of policyholders. Times have changed.

New Insurance Commissioner Julia Rathgeber has asked for our input on policy recommendations she should include in the agency’s biennial report to lawmakers. We are happy to giver her our 2 cents. So, we told her Texans deserve common sense reforms that will make our roads safer, guarantee that industrial plant operators are accountable to the community, and beef up coverage and competition in the home insurance market. (more…)

Eye on Texas Blog

TLR Is Still Trying to Justify Themselves 10 Years Later

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…)

Latest Headlines

Not Just a Hot Cup Anymore

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…)

Latest Headlines

Texas Fertilizer Plant Explosion Like the One in West Could Happen Again

The explosion of a fertilizer plant in West, Texas in April 2013 seemed like a freak accident, but in reality Texas has more than 100 similar facilities, any one of which could potentially cause a similar disaster.

A panel of experts discussed the aftereffects of the disaster at the Texas Tribune Festival, held on the University of Texas campus Sept. 27-29. The panel included Elena Craft, health scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund; Chris Connealy, state fire marshal, Texas Department of Insurance; Tim Herrman, state chemist; state representative Kyle Kacal, whose district (12) includes West; and Tommy Muska, mayor of West.

After the explosion in West, Connealy said, the state set out to identify all facilities making or storing the fertilizer ingredient.  Merging four different databases yielded a list of 153, but only 18 of those seemed to mix the same chemicals as the one in West. So the state sent inspectors to the entire list, ultimately identifying 115 with 10,000 pounds or more of ammonium nitrate on site. (more…)

Latest Headlines

Editorial: Hearing highlights gaps in fertilizer rules

Information and comments delivered during a hearing held last week by the Texas House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee ranged from the troubling to the absurd.

The troubling testimony came from state officials charged with assessing and ensuring the safety of facilities that store and handle dangerous chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, the fertilizer ingredient that exploded April 17 in West, killing 15 people, injuring 200 others and causing more than $100 million in property damage. The jumbled and weak regulations governing hazardous chemicals in Texas limit the ability of state officials to weigh risks to public safety. (more…)

Research & Reports
Research & Reports

The Texas Watch Foundation, a non-partisan 501(c)(3) organization, conducts research and public education activities on consumer law, consumer protection and civil justice issues. Read More »

Court Watch
Court Watch

Court Watch, a program of the Foundation, documents the role and impact of the Texas civil court system on Texas families and Texas public policy. Read More »