The fear of jumbo jury awards was more than a trivial concern when Southern Pacific Railroad chose to pull track and abandon operations in Matagorda County, Texas (Tort Reforms Arent Always What They Seem To Be, June 24, Amarillo Globe News, guest column by Dan Lambe).
Representatives from Southern Pacific singled out Matagorda County when civil justice reformers lobbied the Texas legislature in the 80s and early 90s to change our liberal court shopping laws. Formerly, a suit could be filed in Texas with virtually no connection to the facts of the case. If a rail road had tracks in the county, venue could be established there.
Matagorda County had produced several eye-popping jury awards. Southern Pacific had been stung several times there. So, it was little surprise that a disproportionately high number of railroad cases were filed in plaintiff-friendly Matagorda County, even though the accidents in question may have occurred in counties hundreds of miles away.
Railroad service was not profitable in Matagorda County for a number of reasons. However, lawyers familiar with the specifics argue without a doubt the hostile legal climate pushed the company to abandon service early.
Jon Opelt, Executive Director
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse/Houston