Rick Perry in Houston today to sign loser pays bill into law

Texas Governor and presidential-candidate-in-contemplation Rick Perry will be in Houston today to meet with Houston-area Republicans for the ceremonial signing into law of HB274, a bill that came to be known as “loser pays.” The stated intention of the law, which was sponsored by state representative Brendan Creighton, is to cut down on junk lawsuits. The law will go into effect September 1st, 2011 and will allow Defendants to push off court costs, deposition costs, expert fees and reasonable attorneys fees onto a Plaintiff. As Smith & Hassler has blogged about previously however, a Plaintiff can take their case to a jury trial, their case can never be deemed “frivolous“, and the jury can still find the Defendant at fault for the Plaintiff’s damages, but if the jury awards less than 80% of a settlement offer made by the Defendant the Plaintiff can be left recovering nothing.

Governor Perry declared the loser pays tort reform a legislative emergency thereby pushing it to the top of the legislature’s agenda during the most recent session. Amid all the back-slapping and grinning during the ceremonial bill signing today it will be interesting to hear if any specific examples are given of the frivolous lawsuits HB274 is meant to deter. We can’t remember a single example being given during hearings when HB274 was voted on by the legislature. You would think if frivolous lawsuits in Texas was a significant enough menace that they constituted a legislative emergency, every state representative who voted to pass loser pays could give you several examples.

The truth of it is, the loser pays law helps insurance companies and big business interests, and hurts access to the courthouse for legitimate lawsuits filed by Texas families and small businesses.