5/24/2011 12:34 PM
The Senate moments ago passed unanimously – yes, unanimously – what at the beginning of the session was Perry’s top tort reform priority. Texans for Lawsuit Reform and the Texas Trial Lawyer Association agreed to the language in the bill over the weekend. Now it may be headed to the governor’s desk, but the changes have to be okayed by the House first.
HB 274, authored by Brandon Creighton (R-Conroe) in the House and sponsored by Joan Huffman (R-Houston) in the Senate, currently would require the loser to pay only in a limited set of circumstances. If a motion to dismiss is brought early in a case, the loser of that motion would have to pay the attorney fees that the prevailing party had accumulated up to that point in the suit.
Attorney fees could also be awarded in certain circumstances where there is an offer of settlement. The bill tightens up language to encourage more offers of settlement, Huffman said.
But when both parties are determined to slug it out in trial, they will both pay their own attorney fees as per current law, Huffman said.
Huffman said she managed to get 31 votes on the bill because “many of the stakeholders participated in crafting the wording of the bill.”
“It was a well-thought out bill,” she said. “When you get good legislation, it’s easy to get thirty-one votes.”
The bill requires the Supreme Court to promulgate rules on motions to dismiss early in a lawsuit. Either party could move to dismiss if they believed the suit had no basis in law or fact. Attorney fees would be awarded only in cases that a judge found were not based on “law or fact.”
“It was very limited,” Huffman said.
William Lutz wrote about the provisions of the negotiated bill on Saturday.
Huffman clarified on the Senate floor that the bill would not apply to family law.
Ogden, on the dais at the time, called the passage of HB 274 a “very significant accomplishment.”
Now we’ll see what happens when it goes back to the House.