Personal injury liability reform goes through Texas Senate state landline
An overhaul of tort law for trucking operations in Texas is about to pass at the Statehouse.
The Senate voted 30-1 this week to advance an amended House bill that aims to “ensure a level playing field” in commercial liability cases.
Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, HB19 would protect trucking companies from what are described as frivolous lawsuits in cases where the driver was not negligent.
Additionally, a court would be required to dismiss a lawsuit against a truck operator if another person’s injury or death was caused while the operator was performing his duties “in the course of his employment.”
Critics worry about proposed tort law
Opponents of the measure say the injury liability bill would overhaul the state’s civil justice system to benefit one industry.
They add that changes to the liability law would result in higher vehicle and insurance rates for Texas residents. They cite figures that show the Lone Star State leads the nation in truck crash injuries and deaths.
Speaking late last month in the House, Rep. John Turner, D-Dallas, expressed concern about the limited corporate liability that would result from the rule change.
Countering Criticisms of Limited Liability
Proponents say limited liability would not result in a free pass for trucking companies. Leach continued to assure lawmakers that plaintiffs would not be barred from suing.
He added that the cases going to trial would have two phases. The first phase would focus solely on the incident under the negligence standard. A second phase would cover the broader legal issues arising from the incident.
Essentially, the truck driver’s liability must be proven before his employer can be sued.
“It in no way limits the ability of Texans to hold businesses accountable and accountable,” Leach said.
Protection against “frivolous suits”
Speaking in the Senate this week, Sen. Larry Taylor, R-Friendswood, said the bill is intended to protect trucking operations of all sizes from frivolous lawsuits. Additionally, he said it would ensure those injured can seek damages through the court system.
“House Bill 19 is designed to protect the rights of Texans who are truly injured in commercial vehicle accidents while ending the abusive practices some plaintiffs’ attorneys use to manipulate evidence at trial in cases where a commercial vehicle owner was not at fault or the plaintiff was not injured,” Turner said.
He added that HB19 “will help ensure that rules of the road for traffic accident cases are enforced evenly and fairly in all courtrooms across Texas.”
The Texas Senate took decisive action today to support Texas small businesses against frivolous lawsuits by unanimously passing #HB19. Read the full statement here: https://t.co/Momtv5jxGT #txlege #StopLawsuitAbuse
— TXTA (@TX_TA) May 19, 2021
Truckers support liability reform
Truckers in the state say the legislation would protect the industry from “abusive commercial vehicle lawsuits.” They add that the bill is not just a trucking bill. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft and any other vehicle used for business purposes are also covered.
The bill is supported by groups such as the Texas Trucking Association, the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association.
“HB19 proves that Texas can protect the rights of victims injured by the negligence of others on our roads without letting malicious lawsuits decimate small businesses and the commercial vehicle network we rely on every day,” reads a statement. press release from the Keep Texas Trucking Coalition. .
Texas Trucking Association President and CEO John Esparza added that with the passage of the bill, “the trial process will continue to ensure that accident victims are compensated when they are injured. wrongfully, while protecting businesses across the state from biased and unfair court tactics.”
The measure returned to the House for approval of the changes. If approved there, he would head to Governor Greg Abbott’s office. If not approved, a conference committee of select members from both houses will meet to settle disputes before the bill is sent to the governor. LL