Briefly Stated: News Snippets

Lawyers and Other Reptiles
From the May 1 issue of Liability & Insurance Week comes this quirky story.

A California lawyer has filed a $100,000 libel lawsuit against GTE Directories Sales Corp., alleging that the publisher listed her name and phone number in at least one yellow pages directory under “Reptiles”.

Linda K. Ross, who practices family and probate law in Fullerton, California, claims the damage spread far beyond the 260,000 circulation of the directory itself. She says somebody clipped out the page and sent it to Jay Leno, who joked about it on his late night talk show last December. Paul Harvey and others picked up on the item, too, she says.

Ross says the error has held her up to disrespect and contempt.

“She is subject to a great many joke and hostile phone calls, hissing sounds as she walks by and other forms of ridicule,” according to the lawsuit filed April 20 in Orange County Superior Court.

Ross says the mistake apparently originated because her phone number previously had been held by a reptile show. As late as last week, a query on the GTE Directories web site searching for “Reptiles” and “Fullerton, CA” turned up a listing for “Reptilian Nation” with Ross’s telephone number.

Aetna Settles Lawsuit
The settlement reached by Attorney General John Cornyn and Texas’ largest HMO is a win for patients and doctors.

Under the Aetna settlement, doctors regain their authority to determine what care is medically necessary. Patients are granted greater rights to appeal denial of coverage. Aetna will provide an advocate to assist patients in their appeals and the HMO will no longer provide incentives to doctors who limit care.

Amazingly, the State of Texas reached this settlement without protracted litigation or paying a billion dollar fee to outside lawyers. It almost sounds like a fairy tale ending: the patients profited, not the lawyers.

Click here for more details

Paving the Nation With Cigarette Sales
And you thought the tobacco settlement funds were being used for programs to eliminate smoking. You moron. The War On Smoking currently is a program under which states build highways using money obtained through the sale of cigarettes, according to Miami Herald columnist Dave Barry.

For a witty and humorous read click here . Then scroll to “War on Smoking Always Has Room for Another Lawyer” and click.

Auto Savings
“Since 1996 (most) Houstonians are paying 21 to 30 percent less on their basic automobile coverage, and its all due to tort reform.”
Cora Sue Mach, President
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
Excerpt from a January 6 “Women of
Distinction” profile on ABC Channel 13.
Mark of Distinction
For its December 20 issue Texas Lawyer produced a retrospective entitled “Memory Lane: A decade-by-decade survey of the evolution of Texas law and lawyering”. The publishers cited the emergence of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (“Bringing Meaning to Millions”) and the Republication sweep of the judiciary as two factors that helped define the Texas legal landscape of the Nineties.
Front and Center
During the past year and a half, our organization has been a source of seven front-page stories in the Houston Chronicle , New York Times , Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman . Additionally, we were quoted in four Associated Press stories that appeared statewide.

Your support of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse is greatly appreciated.

Trial Lawyers on Trial
The Reader’s Digest piece entitled “Trial Lawyers on Trial” hit the newsstand December 13 (January issue). We spent months working with the reporter and researchers on this expose. The blurb attached to the seven page piece reads: They say they represent the little guy but who pockets those colossal fees? Reader’s Digest has a paid circulation of 25 million readers making it the world’s most widely read monthly magazine. To read the article in its entirety click online at the Digest web site.
Billboard Splash
We just completed a billboard commitment of $7,000 a month. Our three highway boards on I-10, I-45 and the West Loop were reaching a combined 534,000 drivers daily. Currently, we are scouting out new locations for new board messages.

Our ongoing billboard campaign and other education outreaches are made possible through your generous donations.

Claim Waived
The private lawyers in the Texas tobacco case waived their legal claim to billions of dollars of the state’s settlement with cigarette makers. At least $87 million a year in appropriated funds could have been lost had the attorneys opted to take their fees from a portion of the state’s recovery rather than collect directly from the tobacco industry. As far back as February of 1998, CALA has questioned the issue of taxpayer liability. At long last taxpayers are off the hook. However, there has yet to be a public disclosure of services rendered or expenses incurred. You will find us quoted in the November 20 Associated Press article discussing the $3.3 billion award.
World News Comes Knocking
The $3.3 billion awarded the trial team in the Texas tobacco case represents the largest legal fee award in U.S. history. Producers from ABC World News Tonight read the AP article and called us to discuss the appropriateness of the legal fees. They were contemplating doing a 90-second clip for national broadcast but that did not materialize.
Campaign Cash and the Judiciary
The PBS Frontline investigative piece entitled “Justice For Sale: Is Campaign Cash Corrupting Our Courts?” aired on November 23. VHS copies of the one-hour special can be purchased by calling 1(800) 328-PBS1.
Insurance Rate Rollback
In October, Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor, ordered $685 million in tort reform savings on various lines of liability insurance during 2000. This raises Texas tort savings to an estimated $2.9 billion since 1996. The latest round of reductions affect drivers, doctors and businesses and will apply to rate–regulated policies written or renewed after January 1. The following are the approved rate reductions by line of insurance:

Private Passenger Auto 9.2%
General Liability 19.6%
Commercial Auto 13.8%
Medical Malpractice 17.2%
Other Liability Lines 2.1% - 21.7%

Many Houston area drivers are paying 18-36% less for full coverage today than they were four years ago. Essentially, this savings amounts to a free year of auto liability coverage as a direct result of lawsuit reforms.

Houstonians have been experiencing the deepest auto rate cuts in the state because claims losses here have fallen further and faster than other regions.

Taking a Few Hits
On October 5th, Tim Nyberg, author of” The Warning Label Book”, appeared on Houston’s KLOL morning show featuring Stevens and Pruitt. During the interview Tim called attention to our group and web site. That day we received a record 3,462 hits on our web site and another 2,183 the following day. Even a picture of one of our billboards in the New York Times (complete with our web address) did not stimulate as many web hits.
Workers’ Comp Refunds
Many Houston businesses received an unexpected Christmas present courtesy of the Texas Workers’ Comp Insurance Fund. Some $206 million in special dividend checks were issued to policyholders. In most instances, a company’s refund was equal to the amount the firm paid in maintenance surcharges to the state for the years 1994-1998. This is further proof that the workers’ comp program is working.

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

2500 City West Boulevard, Suite 300 • Houston, Texas 77042
E-mail: sosueme@ • Administrative: (713) 267-2302 • Fax: (713) 267-2267