Court critics saw it as a change of philosophical direction when the Texas Supreme Court upheld a $9.5 million punitive award against a Fort Worth nursing home last month. Others claim the court merely did was it has always done; it applied the law as written. This time the decision favored a patient.
Fact is, injured workers and consumers have fared far better before the state’s high court than some advocacy groups have suggested. That, according to the legal watchdog Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Often critical of outlandish jury awards, Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse, today released a review highlighting the Texas Supreme Court’s Top 20 pro-consumer decisions of the past two terms. Entitled “Courting Respect” the review sharply contrasts recent reports by trial lawyer groups that allege the high court is biased.
The plaintiff victories outlined in the CALA report –ranging from workers’ compensation to workplace harassment, personal injury to products liability lawsuits –represent important consumer safeguards, said Jon Opelt, Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse.
Other notable Court decisions addressed unlawful employer practices, insurance code violations and attorney misconduct.
The CALA report addresses court rulings from September 1998 to the present.
“Why other consumer groups have not hailed these plaintiff victories is baffling to us. Perhaps it is because these groups lack conviction,” jabbed Opelt. “A true consumer group would speak in support of the public interest,” he said.
Opelt saved his harshest criticism for the public interest groups Texans For Public Justice and Court Watch.
“These so-called consumer groups have compiled tally sheets of Supreme Court decisions without even a passing attempt to address why winners won and losers lost,” said Opelt. “After extensive review, we have found their so-called studies, like Payola Justice, to be simplistic, misleading and flatly wrong.”
Defendants won roughly 57 percent of all personal injury and property loss cases during the most recent Supreme Court term. While some consumer groups have used this figure to claim that plaintiffs are receiving less than fair treatment from the state’s high court, Opelt said this notion is simply not accurate.
“A court’s work can only be judged by whether its decisions represent a correct application of the law. By that standard, our research shows that the Texas Supreme Court earns high marks,” said Opelt.
“We should be thankful that such decisions are based on the rule of law and not some arbitrary win/loss quota as Court Watch seems to propose,” Opelt added.