A few minutes ago, my e-mail queue filled up with e-mail messages celebrating the passage of HB 274, better known as “Loser Pays.” Here’s David Dewhurst: “The ‘Loser Pays’ bill builds on the landmark lawsuit reform legislation we passed in 2003 − further reducing the number of frivolous lawsuits in our courtrooms, creating predictability and easing the cost burden on small businesses, which continue to make Texas a national leader in economic growth and job creation.” Here’s Ryan Brannan of TPPF: “Today’s Senate passage of HB 274, the ‘loser pays’ bill, is a great step forward for Texas and another step toward getting rid of many frivolous lawsuits that are clogging our courts. This statute will ensure that any Texan who has been wronged will have access to the judicial system. It will cut the costs of going to trial and reduce the current backlog of cases by decreasing the number of fraudulent and abusive lawsuits. “We know that tort reform is necessary, and we know that it works. Texas’ previous tort reform initiatives have brought back thousands of doctors to our state, improved access to the court system, and helped our state’s economy. “The procedural protections in HB 274 will further cut the costs of litigation, allow quicker access to the courts, and create a more efficient judicial system. In particular, the rulemaking authority given to the Supreme Court to allow a motion to dismiss for filing a frivolous lawsuit – something already done in federal courts – would be a great step forward. The procedural protections in this bill will go a long way toward ensuring that our judicial system dispenses justice according to the merits of the case rather than the size of the wallet.” And here is Dick Trabulsi of Texans for Lawsuit Reform: “We congratulate the Texas Senate on the passage of this important legislation, which will increase the efficiency of our courts by instituting less costly and time consuming court procedures. It also provides incentives for fair and early settlements and imposes risk on those who pursue meritless or abusive lawsuits.” Trabulsi applauded the work of Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, the Senate sponsor of HB 274 and Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, Chairman of the Senate State Affairs Committee, for their hard work in crafting a fair and meaningful bill. Trabulsi also lauded Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst for their leadership on HB 274 and their longstanding commitment to tort reform. Well, they can pat themselves on the back if they want to, but this was an agreed-to bill, and agreed-to bills rarely, if ever, do anything. That’s why they are agreed to. My understanding is that Senator Duncan wrote the bill and told the parties, “It’s this or nothing.” (Duncan is not my source for this.) The “loser pays” provision is that if the defendant moves to dismiss the case, the court SHALL award costs and fees to the prevailing party, as determined by the judge. In other words, no big deal. But Perry can call it “loser pays” and check off another item on his wish list for the session. Alert readers will notice that Trabulsi’s praise of Perry and Dewhurst did not extend to Speaker Straus.
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