Protect Your Rights: Texas Courthouses May Soon Be Closed to You (Part 1)
April 5. 2011 17:07 by
“In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.”- James Madison (The principal author of our Constitution)
In what world is it fair to put families at risk of paying the bloated attorneys fees of large corporations if they lose a lawsuit but allow these same corporations to deny and defend meritorious claims for baseless reasons without fear of incurring the same type of risk? That world may soon be right here in Texas.
Currently pending in our state legislature is a bill commonly referred to as “Loser Pays.” The name is deceiving, however. A more accurate name should be “Families Pay.” That’s because large corporations and insurance companies are not subject to the harsh provisions of the “Loser Pays” legislation. As written, insurance companies and large corporations will never have to pay the other side’s attorneys fees and litigation costs if they lose. “Loser Pays” only applies to individuals and families that dare to hold businesses accountable for their negligent actions. This legislation is nothing more than an attempt to further stack the deck in favor of large corporations by making it too risky for individuals and their lawyers to seek redress in our court system, while insurance companies and businesses can deny and defend claims no matter how frivolous their basis for doing so.
To be clear, this measure has nothing to do with frivolous lawsuits. Its true intent is to stop people from filing claims that have merit. Courts already have the tools to deal with frivolous claims, such as monetary sanctions to cover attorney’s fees for defending such claims. “Loser Pays” drastically shifts the risks of litigation to families so that they will be reluctant to bring meritorious claims. Think about it- if someone told you there was a 50/50 chance you would win your case (hardly frivolous considering the odds of success), would you be less likely to bring the lawsuit if they also told you that if you lose you will need to pay tens of thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees to the defendant corporation or insurance company? My guess is that many people would answer yes to this question, especially if they were also told that if they won their case the other side would not be under the same obligation to pay attorney’s fees and costs. This reluctance is what big insurance companies, multinational corporations, and our Texas Governor are hoping for.
So, if you care about the right to a trial by jury, fairness and equality, and protecting your right to be fairly compensated when the negligence of another injures you or your family, call your elected state officials and tell them to vote against “Loser Pays” legislation. Speak up and protect your fundamental right to a civil jury trial.
“The founders of our nation considered the right of trial by jury in civil cases an important bulwark against tyranny and corruption, a ‘safeguard too precious to be left to the whim of the sovereign.’” Chief Justice William Rehnquist, 1979.