National Report Ranks Texas’
Liability System Among Country’s Worst
Despite recent reforms, business leaders believe the Texas civil liability system is among the nation’s worst, according to the “State Liability Systems Ranking Study” by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The survey ranks Texas’ liability system 46 out of 50 in terms of how fair and reasonable the system is perceived to be by America’s business leaders. Nearly 80 percent of the respondents also indicated that the litigation environment of a state could affect decisions such as where to locate or do business.
“Progress has been made in Texas, yet clearly more needs to be done,” said Jon Opelt, Houston director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA). “Texas has taken steps to curb frivolous lawsuits and outrageous damage awards, and stop the practice of reaching into the wrong pockets for compensation. In spite of that, jackpot justice is still alive in Texas.
“This should serve as a call to action for anyone who wants to attract more job opportunities to Texas and help keep current employers here,” Opelt said.
The U.S. Chamber asked a national sample of in-house general counsel or senior litigators at public corporations to give each state a letter grade (A, B, C, D, or F) in several areas of liability. These grades were then averaged into an overall state grade using a 4.0 scale.
“In six of the 10 key areas addressed, Texas was ranked amongst the worse perceived states,” Opelt said.
Texas’ rating on key elements of its liability system is as follows:
Overall treatment of tort and contract litigation: Grade: C, Rank: 46
Treatment of class action suits: Grade: C, Rank: 42
Punitive damages: Grade: D+, Rank: 42
Timeliness of summary judgment/dismissal: Grade: C, Rank: 43
Discovery: Grade: C, Rank: 46
Scientific and technical evidence: Grade: C, Rank: 45
Judges’ impartiality: Grade: C, Rank: 46
Judges’ competence: Grade: C, Rank: 45
Juries’ predictability: Grade: C, Rank: 42
Juries’ fairness: Grade: C, Rank: 46
Looking specifically at two problem areas, Opelt said, “Class action lawsuits are increasing at an alarming rate. Asbestos lawsuits are multiplying not decreasing. Peripheral defendants are being hammered in the courts, though they never made products containing asbestos.”
The report was conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc., via a series of phone interviews between November 7 and December 11, 2001. All interviews were conducted among a nationally representative sample of 824 senior attorneys at companies with annual revenues of at least $100 million.