This week the Texas House approved legislation to tackle the latest growing area of lawsuit abuse—hailstorm litigation.
In the latest swing of the Whack-a-Mole mallet, lawmakers voted 91-55 to approve House Bill 1774 by State Rep. Greg Bonnen (R–League City) which would sharply curtail the ability of trial lawyers to generate large lawsuits over inflated hailstorm insurance claims.
Over the past few years what was once a relatively quiet issue has surged to the forefront of lawsuits filed in the Lone Star State. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, weather-related litigation has jumped 1,400 percent statewide since 2011.
Obviously the increase isn’t due to a massive shift in the weather. Rather these lawsuits have simply become the tool du jour for liberal trial lawyers seeking paychecks after the Texas Legislature’s insistence on tort reform has boxed them out of shaking down other industries.
The issue is the primary legislative priority of what may be the most powerful lobby organization in the state, Texans for Lawsuit Reform. TLR pushed and prodded lawmakers to pass legislation to tackle the problem last session but failed after House Speaker Joe Straus and his allies moved to quietly kill the bill at the request of trial lawyers and the Democratic caucus.
This session many expected a reform bill to meet the same fate and things began as expected. A bill quickly moved in the Texas Senate, but once again appeared waylaid in the Texas House where leading lawmakers refused to sign on to TLR’s House bill despite heavy pressure.
Sources in the Capitol report that Straus and his team were prepared to kill the bill again, but decided to bring it up to punish Democrats for grandstanding during the sanctuary cities bill vote. Once the bill was brought forward, some Republican lawmakers joined Democrats to oppose the legislation and tried to water it down.
Those efforts — led by Republican State Reps. Charlie Geren (Fort Worth), Ken King (Canadian), and Travis Clardy (Nacadoches) — failed and TLR applauded the legislation’s passage. That trio was joined on various votes by a combination of State Reps. Kyle Kacal (College Station), Lyle Larson (San Antonio), Chris Paddie (Marshall), Four Price (Amarillo), and Gary VanDeaver (New Boston).
“House Bill 1774 preserves the strongest protections in the nation for Texas property insurance consumers while shutting down the abusive lawsuit mills that have already caused insurers to increase their rates for homeowners or stop writing policies in some areas of the state,” said TLR Communications Director Lucy Nashed.
The bill will now go to the Texas Senate, where it is likely to pass.