Politico recently reported that trial lawyers in Texas were preparing a war against Republican candidate Rick Perry. “Among litigators, there is no presidential candidate who inspires the same level of hatred—and fear—as Perry, an avowed opponent of the plaintiffs’ bar who has presided over several rounds of tort reform as governor.”
The highlights of Texas tort reform, as tabulated by Politico, include, “a 2003 measure putting a monetary cap on non-economic damage awards” and “another law in the most recent Texas legislative session, making it easier to dismiss some lawsuits and putting plaintiffs on the hook for legal costs in certain cases that are defeated or dismissed.”
Thus it should come as no surprise that trial and plaintiff lawyers in Texas have donated a significant amount of money to Democrats running against Perry. Meanwhile, other professionals seem to find these statutes comforting. The Wall Street Journal reported in an article entitled “Doctors Flock to Texas After Tort Reform,” that 7,000 doctors moved to Texas in the three years following the cap on non-economic damages in malpractice suits. Perry’s reform measures also reined in class action abuses and introduced product liability reform.
Nationally, the partisan divide on tort reform mirrors that of Texas. Trial lawyers traditionally support Democratic candidates because of their opposition to tort reform. The Washington Examiner reported in January that “the plaintiff’s bar has long been one of the Democrats’ most ardent and loyal special interest groups, a source of perennial financial support to the party.” This special interest group donated heavily to the Kerry-Edwards campaign and supported Obama in his first presidential bid.
Ultimately, tort reform inhibits the plaintiff’s ability to seek high damages, resulting in trial lawyers being less able to cash in on massive damages and class action suits. Against this backdrop, the “war” on Governor Rick Perry waged by trial lawyers shows what kind of a threat they think he really is.