House-passed bill will help curb abusive lawsuits targeting commercial vehicles

The Texas House of Representatives passed House Bill 19, legislation to curb the growing trend of lawsuit abuse targeting commercial vehicles, earning widespread praise from the trucking industry and small businesses across the state who rely on truck transportation to provide jobs and serve Texans.

“With this significant vote, Texas joins a growing number of states committed to stopping rampant lawsuit abuse by enacting measured, targeted and prudent reforms that restore balance and fairness to the civil justice system,” said ATA President and CEO Chris Spear. “For years the plaintiffs’ bar has been perverting the civil justice system into a profit center to line their own pockets, leeching off a critical link in the supply chain and the livelihoods of honest and hardworking truckers in their pursuit of Jackpot Justice. But those days are now coming to an end.”

“Protecting Texas jobs is not a partisan issue. We are thankful for Speaker Dade Phelan’s leadership and Chairman Jeff Leach’s (R-Plano) hard and effective work in shepherding this critically important bill through the legislative process,” said John Esparza, president and CEO of the Texas Trucking Association. “We applaud Reps. Eddie Lucio III (D-Brownsville), Ina Minjarez (D-San Antonio) and Leo Pacheco (D-San Antonio) for their roles in bringing bipartisanship to this bill, which is important for all Texans who rely on commercial vehicles for jobs, goods and services.”

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 in the case that’s being heard. The trucking industry says targeted, common-sense measures like these are necessary to reform a system that incentivizes frivolous litigation and nuclear verdicts, which are wreaking havoc through insurance markets and punishing all motor carriers regardless of their safety record.

Texas becomes the latest state in recent months to pass lawsuit abuse reforms, including Montana, West Virginia, Louisiana and Missouri. In neighboring Louisiana, lawsuit abuse grew so rampant that it attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as organized crime rings staged dozens of accidents with unwitting tractor-trailers as a pretext to sue them in court. Last November, personal injury attorney Daniel Patrick Keating was indicted for his leadership role in the lawsuit racket.

The trucking industry provides more than 734,820 jobs throughout Texas, representing one in 15 jobs in the state. Eighty-two percent of Texas communities rely exclusively on trucks to move their goods.