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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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US Chamber of Commerce Again Paints Misleading Picture of Tort "Reform"

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Earlier this week, the US Chamber of Commerce published its annual Lawsuit Climate report, ranking all 50 states for their lawsuit climate.  Texas comes in at number 41. While this report seems to be getting a lot of press, few articles have really analyzed it.  After spending a little time looking at it, I have three big concerns with the report.  First, the methodology is simply ridiculous.  The study is simply a survey of general counsel attorneys for companies earning $100 million or more per year and simply asks their opinions about various states.  It’s not based on any study of tort reform initiatives, any survey of jury verdicts, any survey of statistics showing the number of times plaintiffs or defendants prevailed in cases.  It’s just not a study — it’s merely opinion based on perception.

Second, the perception and the issuance has a goal.  The executive summary of the report concedes:

as we have noted in the past, perception does become linked with reality. If the states can change the way litigators and others perceive their liability systems, we may find considerable movement in their rankings in the future. Once these perceptions change, the overall business environment may be deemed more hospitable as well.

The Chamber hopes that if they keep repeating to Texans that we have a poor tort climate that people will start believing it.  Nevermind the facts of our tort reform, the facts showing that defendants prevail in the Texas Supreme Court almost 90% of the time, or the facts showing jury verdicts going down. 

Third, I think the study itself shows how the general counsel interviewed are out of touch with the litigation scene.  When asked what reforms they’d like to see in the system, the number one response from the respondents was “speeding up the trial process.”  In my extensive time doing this, it’s been my experience that plaintiffs are pushing for a quick trial, and that big business and insurance companies are the ones using whatever tactics necessary to slow the case down. 

For more information, Donald Caminiti, another Injuryboard member, has also written about this.