Commentary: Tort reform is about money, not fairness

Stripped of all their political baggage, the notions that frivolous lawsuits should get kicked out before they cost anyone much money and that those who wrongly drag others into court should bear the financial brunt sound fair and right.

But proposals to change Texas' civil justice system aren't ever mainly about fairness and right.

They're about money: Who's making it, who's spending it and who's giving it to which candidates.

The Legislature significantly changed the system several times in the past 25 years, and there's no denying that sweeping "tort reform" in 2003 slashed the number of lawsuits filed for personal injuries.

That means less money for trial lawyers, who typically represent plaintiffs and tend to support Democrats. Republicans, who usually are backed by moneyed business interests, want to make sure they keep the upper hand.

Thus, Gov. Rick Perry continues promoting the fallacy that Texas runs amok in frivolous suits and unhinged juries, thereby needing emergency legislation to remain business-friendly.

Put aside for a moment the legitimate argument that the latest round of "tort reform" is a remedy in search of a problem.

On May 9, the House passed HB274, which supposedly would make the judicial system more efficient and accessible to everyone. Intentionally or not, the measure has potential for all sorts of mischief that would not improve civil justice.

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