Tag: Frivolous litigation

Texas Style Justice

It is no surprise that certain well funded organizations have allied themselves with the Democratic Party as a means of feathering their nest and facilitating the dissemination of their beliefs, most notably, the NTA, the NEA, big labor, and trial lawyers. Tort costs have always been a bone of contention with any real discussion on reform as it is no surprise how costly and damaging to the justice system frivolous lawsuits can be. In this area, there has been many individual state legislative pushes to adopt The English Rule, whereby loser pays the attorney’s fees of all involved as well as whatever court fees incurred.

I’ve mentioned Rick Perry in other threads as a possible GOP contender for the presidential race. Perry is the governor for the state of Texas. Although Perry has a budget problem (join the club) he is making his state much more business friendly. And tort reform was next on his “to do” list:

By a unanimous vote, the Texas Senate has just given final approval to a once-controversial “loser pays” bill designed to make it easier to get meritless lawsuits tossed out of court.

Passage of the measure had been one of the goals of Gov. Rick Perry and GOP conservative groups. But as recently as a week ago, approval of the new law remained in doubt, as various groups continued to battle over its provisions.

Then, after several days of closed-door talks, a surprise deal was announced Saturday on House Bill 274 that allowed for today’s vote.

The Senate vote came after almost no debate.

The popular argument against “loser pays” has always been that it would make valid suits  brought by poor people prohibitive because they would not want to risk losing and lawyers would be hesitant to accept these types of cases with no readily visible cash cow. Larger corporations would be less likely to settle when they can transfer all their legal fees to the claimant. But the Texas law accounts for this, it provides an extra hurdle. “Loser pays” will require plaintiff’s to foot the bill of the winning party’s legal costs if a judge finds the case to be groundless, anything with merit (and in today’s courts this would be an easy test to pass) would not be held to this provision,seems fair to me. I think we can all agree that this sort of nonsense has to stop.

A court Thursday rejected an appeal filed by a former administrative law judge who sued a dry cleaners for $54 million over a missing pair of pants.

Other states, notably Oklahoma next door, South Carolina, and Penn. have similar bills in the works.

And with the removal of frivolous lawsuits, mal practice insurance for anyone that incurs liability (doctors, lawyers, municipalities that hire cops and firemen) will most certainly go down.

Before the reform, Texas was a kind of holy place on the tort bar pilgrimage. Now it’s a Mecca for doctors, especially the emergency physicians, obstetricians and surgical specialists who elsewhere can face blue-sky malpractice premiums. Liability rates have fallen by 27.5% on average since 2003. The number of doctors applying to practice in Texas has increased 60%, even as the overall population grew by 14%.

All of this is helping to end an acute Lone Star physicians shortage, especially in rural areas. Twenty-three counties now have their first E.R. doctor, 10 their first OB-GYN. Hospitals are reinvesting the malpractice savings in scarce services like neurosurgery and neonatal units and expanding access to care. This Texas success has opened eyes in nearby Oklahoma, where even Democrats have been forced to agree to some legal reforms.

I read articles all the time in my local paper how businesses are moving from my state (notice that chart I posted earlier or business friendly states, and where is California?). Many of these businesses are moving to Texas. And all this does is provide feathers for the cap of one Rick Perry, ya think is is getting in? Oh yeah.

The Cheerleader and the Rapist

This story makes me, as the Best Sports Writer on the Planet tweeted, all kinds of sad:

A teenage girl who was dropped from her high school’s cheerleading squad after refusing to chant the name of a basketball player who had sexually assaulted her must pay compensation of $45,000 (£27,300) after losing a legal challenge against the decision.

The United States Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a review of the case brought by the woman, who is known only as HS. Lower courts had ruled that she was speaking for the school, rather than for herself, when serving on a cheerleading squad – meaning that she had no right to stay silent when coaches told her to applaud.

Here’s the story: cheerleader goes to a party, says she was raped by two athletes. Said charge is later reduced to misdemeanor assault. At a later game, she refuses to chant his name of one of her assailants while he’s shooting a free throw. (According to this report, the cheer she refused was “Two, four, six, eight, ten, come on, Rakheem, put it in.” I wish I were making that up.) And then:

This time, she said, she was called into a hallway at halftime, and the district superintendent, his assistant and the school principal told her she had to cheer for Bolton or go home.

Her father came out of the stands — where the fans, he said, were mocking the girl — to join his crying daughter. After a shouting confrontation with the school administrators, he, his wife and their daughter left the game.

In the following weeks, H.S. said, “it was my family against the community” of Silsbee, a town of 6,300 where “football is everything. … They were the star athletes and I was standing up to them.”

She said youths shouted “slut” at her as she drove to school with her younger sister, who soon transferred to another school.

The only response from school officials, H.S. said, was to advise her to stay away from Bolton.

She was kicked off the cheerleading team as well. The family challenged the action as a violation of the First Amendment, lost and now have to pay $45,000 in legal fees for filing a “frivolous lawsuit”.

Numerous thoughts on this one:

I think the decision to dismiss her claim was the correct one. She has the right to free speech. She could have shouted “rapist” as he was shooting. But there is no Constitutional right to be on a cheerleading team. I’m mixed on the fine for a frivolous lawsuit. I hate the courts being abused but … Jesus. If she’d sued for a civil rights violation or something, she’d be on much firmer ground. You could make a good case that the school failed in its duty to protect her.

All that having been said, the school superintendent is fucking douchbag who has no business being in charge of the schools. Who the hell does this? And what the hell kind of school board back him up like this? And what kind of community? I briefly wondered why she stayed a cheerleader after this, but then I realized I had the question turned around. Why was he still on the team? Further reports say that the school told the victim to avoid the cafeteria and homecoming so as not to create a scene. Talk about blaming the victim.

Now, caveat time. There is a lot in this case that is unknown. There could be a he-said, she-said aspect. It may be that the initial charge was overblown. After cases like Mark Chmura and Genarlow Wilson, I’ve learned to be cautious when it comes to these things. Rape shield laws can keep a lot of relevant information out of the media, letting our natural sympathy for the victim inform our rage.

On the other hand, the chain of events described above sounds utterly plausible. There are many things I miss about Texas, but the misplaced priority on sports is not one of them. Not that this is exclusive to Texas, of course: any time a star athlete is accused of something like this, defenders come out of the woodwork even after it becomes clear that the athlete has acted badly.

We need to know more but probably never will. So my initial reaction remains. I’m OK with dismissing the lawsuit. But I’d be even more OK with dismissing the school superintendent and every other official you can lay a hand on.