Just short of two weeks ago, the Texas Senate took a "giant step for mankind," or at least the American subset of it, by unanimously voting to pass their version of House Bill 274. According to the bill's senate sponsor, State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, the aim of HB 274 is to cap court costs and discourage meritless lawsuits.
Fortunately for the people of Texas, and especially small business owners, the powerful Texas Trial Lawyers Association, which had lobbied aggressively against earlier versions of the bill, now supports the current version, which among other concessions, would allow the plaintiff to collect fees too, if they win a verdict that's more than 120 percent of the settlement offer. The trial lawyers' support should ensure easy passage by the Texas House, according to observers.
The so-called loser pays legislation is just the latest in a long series of business-savvy improvements Texas, prodded by its governor, Rick Perry, has passed in recent years. In addition to this tort reform bill, Texas had already enacted bills affecting such issues as class action certification and product liability, as well as medical malpractice reforms.
According to National Review Online (NRO),
...the passage of loser pays is yet another example of how Texas has taken the national lead in job creation and the fostering of a strong business climate. Immediately following [Governor] Perry’s earlier reforms, the number of physicians applying to practice [in Texas] rose by 60 percent, filling a increasing need across the state.
Governors of other states, including Florida, are paying attention to what is happening in Texas. Says NRO,
Perry is blazing an important trail for other governors such as South Carolina’s Nikki Haley, Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett, Florida’s Rick Scott, Oklahoma’s Mary Fallin, and Alabama’s Robert Bentley, all of who[m] ran and won while proposing similar legal-reform ideas.
The measure must be approved by the House before being sent to Governor Perry for signature.