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An Update on IIAT's Key Legislative Issues


TLR


Earlier this week, Richard J. Trabulsi, Jr., Chairman of Texans for Tort Reform (TLR), issued the following update on some of IIAT's key issues for this legislative session. TLR is a leader of a coalition of over 80 trade and business associations and more than 400 individual businesses – from large public companies like AT&T and UPS to small family businesses struggling to survive the tsunami of litigation against commercial vehicles of all types and sizes.

Each legislative session is alike – and unique in its own way. This session is more unique than most. A slow, eerie start because of the pandemic and extra security due to the January breach at the U.S. Capitol produced a Texas Capitol that was empty and quiet rather than crowded and bustling, as is usual during session. And there is only one operational entrance rather than four, with heavily armed national guardsmen and DPS officers everywhere. Things are getting somewhat back to normal now, but only somewhat.

What is similar – and all too normal – is the extensive work necessary to pass essential tort reform legislation in the face of intense opposition by the wealthy and politically powerful personal injury trial lawyers. In this session, TLR is a leader of a coalition of over 80 trade and business associations and more than 400 individual businesses – from large public companies like AT&T and UPS to small family businesses struggling to survive the tsunami of litigation against commercial vehicles of all types and sizes. That litigation is conducted through ubiquitous advertising by personal injury trial lawyers, their soliciting agents, and a collaborative group of medical providers who create inflated medical expenses from even the slightest fender bender involving a commercial vehicle. Whether it be an eighteen-wheeler, the van of your local repairman, or the pickup truck of your landscaper, all are a target of this litigation.

We encourage you to visit the website of the impressive Keep Texas Trucking Coalition at keeptexastrucking.com

HB 19 by Chairman Jeff Leach and its companion bill, SB 17 by Chairman Larry Taylor, address the trial abuses that produce both frivolous lawsuits and numerous astronomically high jury verdicts that are unjustified by the facts of the cases. HB 19 passed out of the House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee and will be considered on the House floor later this month. The bills simply codify existing Rules of Evidence about providing a jury evidence relevant to the causation of a vehicle accident and the best jurisprudence related to how allegations of negligence concerning an agent (truck driver) and principal (driver’s employer) should be tried (the doctrine of respondeat superior).

SB 207 by Drs. Schwertner, Buckingham and Campbell and its companion bill, HB 1617 by Dr. Bonnen, address the inflated medical bills that are presented to prove up medical damages in personal injury lawsuits, and which are a big driver in the abusive commercial vehicle litigation scheme. SB 207 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee and is expected on the Senate floor this week. The bill makes sure a jury in a personal injury trial has relevant evidence to determine the reasonableness of the medical damages being claimed by the plaintiff. The bill also contains a “safe harbor” provision that allows a medical provider to stipulate that a reasonable fee for its service is not more than 150% of the workers compensation fee for that service, which will allow that doctor or hospital to be exempt from the litigation process – the provider will not be subject to deposition and will not be required to testify at trial. This will encourage a greater number of ethical medical providers to treat patients who are involved in a personal injury lawsuit, with the knowledge they will not be drawn into the discovery and trial process.

SB 6 by Chairman Kelly Hancock and HB 3659

by Chairman Jeff Leach provide fair and reasonable liability protections against COVID-19 lawsuits to medical providers and businesses that follow mandated protocols related to the pandemic. This legislation has wide support and is moving in both chambers of the Legislature. Previous tort reforms advocated by TLR should help prevent abusive litigation from developing over COVID 19 – reforms related to venue, causation, expert testimony, proportionate responsibility, and caps on non-economic damages in medical liability lawsuits, among others.

See all of IIAT's key legislative issues for 2021

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Lee Loftis

Governmental Affairs Director
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Jill Douglas

Development Director