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W. Gardner Selby
By W. Gardner Selby August 23, 2012

Perry signed measure into law intended to increase access to courts for legitimate claims

On the campaign trail in 2010, Gov. Rick Perry touted 2003 medical lawsuit reforms and on at least one occasion called for further efforts to reduce what he described as frivolous lawsuits.
   
"Texans and Texas employers are still hit with frivolous lawsuits that cost thousands or even millions of dollars in legal fees to defend,” he said in a Sept. 15, 2010, press release, after he accepted the endorsement of Texans for Lawsuit Reform. "It is time to introduce a higher degree of balance and accountability into our legal system.”
   
To do so, Perry proposed a "four-point approach that will limit unfounded claims and bring greater accountability and efficiency to our judicial system.” We"re tracking each point as an individual promise. (See the other three here, here and here.)
   
"The court system should be more accessible to Texans with legitimate claims without the incurred costs associated with a drawn-out trial,” he said. "Lawsuits with claims between $10,000 and $100,000 should have expedited trial settings and limited discovery in order to get litigants in and out of the court quickly and allow swifter recovery for damages.”

And legislation along those lines passed into law.

House Bill 274, authored by Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, directed the Texas Supreme Court to adopt rules promoting the prompt, efficient and cost-effective resolution of lawsuits in district and county courts where the amount "in controversy” including damages, penalties, attorney fees and other costs is $100,000 or less. "The rules shall address the need for lowering (legal) discovery costs in these action and the procedure for ensuring that these actions will be expedited” in the courts, the law says.
   
By telephone, a staff attorney for the Supreme Court, Osler McCarthy, told us the rules carrying out the law are under development.

Separately, Austin lawyer David Chamberlain, among advocates advising the court on the rules, said a rule has been recommended to the court to shorten discovery and reduce time lags before trials, which would be limited to five hours per side to put on each case, counting time taken for jury selection, lawyers" opening statements, the presentation of evidence and closing arguments. Chamberlain said, too, the draft rule specifies that both sides would have to agree to the expedited approach for it to be used.

Perry did his part. We rate this promise as Kept.

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