Louisiana is in need of legal reform and Texas, once known as the “lawsuit capital of the world,” can serve as a model for progress. This recent article details how Texas has been able to put legal reform to work improve not only their legal system, but their economy as well. Read more about what reform brings—and then encourage our legislators to bring reform to Louisiana!


Legal reform in the Lone Star State; How it works and why Louisiana needs it It is hard to imagine, but not very long ago, Texas was described by the Wall Street Journal as the “lawsuit capital of the world.”

Frivolous lawsuits and settlements were out of control. Plaintiff-friendly laws, judges and juries made it virtually impossible for defendants to get a fair trial. Meanwhile, businesses, doctors, and most importantly, jobs were leaving the state in droves.

Fast-forward from 1994 to today, and we see Texas employment numbers that paint a very different picture. According to Richard Fisher, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, four of every 10 new jobs created in the U.S. since the recession ended are in the Lone Star State. That’s a massive share of America’s job growth when you consider that Texas only accounts for about 8% of the nation’s economy.

What’s even more impressive is data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows Texas has added 732,000 private sector jobs over the past 10 years. That’s seven times more than any other state. And for the seventh year in a row, Texas was ranked by CEO Magazine as the best state in the nation for business.

This transformation happened so fast it may seem like a “Texas miracle,” but in reality it is much more than that.

Over the past two decades, lawmakers in the Lone Star State have made lawsuit reform a top priority—and this is the main reason cited by Fisher for the Texas turnaround. Working together to put payrolls before payouts, they enacted common sense laws to reign in excessive punitive damages for arbitrary claims such as “pain and suffering.” Because of these and many other legal reforms, Texas has become a jobs machine. As Governor Rick Perry recently noted, employers in the Lone Star state “spend less time in court and more time creating jobs.” This has become especially important in the aftermath of the Great Recession.

The New York Times recently published an article highlighting the legal nightmare that thousands of Gulf Coast citizens have found themselves in a year after the devastating oil spill. The story features Tim Nguyen, a Mississippi shipyard worker, who tried to file a claim with the Gulf Coast Claims Facility (GCCF) after his hours had been cut back, only to find that a law firm he had never heard of had already filed one in his name. Despite the misleading headline, “Many Hit by Spill Now Feel Caught in Claim Process,” it’s clear Mr. Nguyen is not caught up in the “claims process.” It appears to be more likely that he, and many others, have been deliberately misled into a litigation pipeline set up by some unscrupulous personal injury lawyers to drive up legal claims and lawyer fees rather than serve justice or help victims.

The article goes on to reveal that Mr. Nguyen is one of numerous Vietnamese-American households who received an unsolicited letter from a law firm in San Antonio, which requested financial records and demanded that its recipients “not sign anything from BP or anyone else.” Some individuals who received the letters were not even impacted by the spill and speculated that perhaps everyone in the phone book may have received a letter. Now an attorney with the firm claims to represent more than 40,000 plaintiffs in a lawsuit over the Gulf spill—including Mr. Nguyen. Despite repeated attempts to extricate himself from the law firm so he can settle with GCCF, Mr. Nguyen has been stuck in legal limbo for more than six months and has yet to receive a dime.

This seemingly systematic effort to take advantage of the most vulnerable individuals in the aftermath of this disaster is appalling. It’s imperative that our state bar associations and attorneys general take note of these seemingly unscrupulous practices and investigate. And those who are found guilty of purposefully deceiving their “clients” should be held accountable for their actions. The spill is a tragedy—not an excuse for anyone to game the system for their own personal profit. What’s even more disturbing is that one of the attorneys involved in these questionable tactics sits on the on the plaintiffs’ steering committee, an exclusive group of lawyers selected by Judge Carl J. Barbier to help manage their side of the massive case. Isn’t this something Judge Barbier should question or at least be concerned about?

Why is the standard of ethical behavior for some plaintiffs’ attorneys seemingly so much lower than that of any other profession? If the New York Times published an article that exposed a group of doctors for purposefully misleading their patients into unnecessary medical treatments simply so they could reap the financial benefits, the fallout would be significant. I’d venture to say there would be public sanctions, congressional hearings, and possibly even criminal charges. Why is this situation any less significant, particularly to Judge Barbier, who has a legal and moral obligation to protect and serve the people who have been impacted by the spill—not the attorneys who seek to profit from it?


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