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Trucking applauds Texas Senate’s passage of lawsuit abuse reform bill

May 25, 2021
Industry insists HB 19 will help protect small businesses, restore ‘balance and fairness’ to the state’s civil justice system

A reform bill that trucking associations insist will help to reduce “frivolous and abusive” lawsuits targeting commercial motor vehicles recently passed the Texas Senate by a unanimous and bipartisan vote of 31-0.

House Bill 19 first cleared the Texas House of Representatives on April 30, with two amendments that “included a technical amendment and an amendment requiring TDI (the Texas Department of Insurance) to study the impact of the legislation on the insurance industry,” according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

The House must now concur with the Senate version before the bill is delivered to Gov. Greg Abbott to sign into law.

“Despite the plaintiff bar’s best efforts to lie about and distort the contents of this bill, the Texas Senate took a resoundingly bipartisan vote (May 19) to curb lawsuit abuse and restore balance and fairness to the civil justice system,” said Chris Spear, American Trucking Associations (ATA) president and CEO. “Texas has joined the growing ranks of states across the country pursuing common-sense measures to ensure the plaintiffs’ bar can’t keep perverting civil justice into a profit center to line their own pockets.”

The bill’s Senate passage earned widespread praise from the trucking industry and a broad coalition of supporters from every corner of the Texas economy, who say reforms like HB 19 are needed to prevent a growing trend of lawsuit abuse that has sent insurance levels skyrocketing to unsustainable levels, putting enormous strain on the supply chain.

Among other provisions, HB 19 ensures juries are presented with evidence that is directly relevant to causation and injuries in a highway accident and ensures the case is focused on the events at issue—not on extraneous allegations outside the scope of the underlying accident. The trucking industry says targeted reforms like these will help remove the incentives driving abusive lawsuits and fueling a spike in nuclear verdicts.

“With the unanimous passage of House Bill 19, the trial process will continue to ensure accident victims are compensated when wrongfully injured, while also protecting businesses across the state from biased and unfair courtroom tactics,” said John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association (TXTA) president and CEO. “Thank you to Lt. Governor Dan Patrick for recognizing the serious threat abusive lawsuits have on the Texas economy and naming this issue as one of his priority items this legislative session.”

Esparza added that HB 19 has been through a “rigorous vetting process” led by Rep. Jeff Leach (R-District 67), the House author, and was developed with the input of all interested parties.

“We applaud the Texas Senate on the passage of House Bill 19 and respectfully urge the Texas House of Representatives to concur on all revisions made in the Senate,” Esparza said.

Detractors counter that the bill will put Texans at risk on the road, essentially shielding “careless corporations from the consequences of their actions when they put fleets of commercial vehicles on the roads,” according to Texas Watch.

“Texas already has the most dangerous roads in the nation,” said Ware Wendell, executive director of Texas Watch. “This legislation will only put all of us at greater threat. We need to improve safety, not give careless corporations less incentive to follow the rules of the road.”

But Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition (KTTC) support HB 19, as does the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, the Insurance Council of Texas, and the American Property Casualty Insurance Association.

“The Texas Senate has taken decisive action to stand with Texas small businesses against abusive, job killing lawsuits by unanimously passing HB 19,” said KTTC, which includes 600 members spanning businesses and associations of all sizes and across nearly every sector of the Texas economy. “Lawsuit abuse is not a partisan issue, and throughout the legislative process, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have come together to provide feedback and support this common-sense fix to a serious problem that affects every sector of Texas’ economy.

We are grateful for the leadership of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who named abusive commercial vehicle litigation as a priority item this session, as well as Sen. Larry Taylor (R-Friendswood) for helping build broad support for this legislation in the Senate, including cosponsors Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. (D-Brownsville) and Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen).

“HB 19 proves that Texas can protect the rights of victims who are injured by the negligence of others on our roadways without letting abusive lawsuits decimate small businesses and the commercial vehicle network we rely on every day. We hope the Texas House will quickly concur with the bill that was passed by the Senate, and send this critical legislation to the governor’s desk.”   

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