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Friday, July 3, 2015

Texas Legislature Enacts Two New Bills Regarding Personal Injury and Wrongful Death

What is the latest news regarding personal injury litigation in Texas? 

The year 2015 has seen several resounding legislative developments in the state of Texas – including two recent bills presented to the governor for signature in May. 

The first involves a growing procedural complexity within the civil court system, presumably spawned by the ever-increasing global format of commerce and industry. HB 1692, which was sent for signature on May 26, 2015, involves the civil procedure concept known as forum non conveniens, or – in English – and inconvenient forum. The concept generally allows a defendant to motion to change the location of a civil lawsuit from one court to another in order to mitigate hardships relating to extensive travel and/or over-publicity of a certain issue within a geographical area. 

HB 1692 works to remove a certain provision within the current statute that prevents a defendant from successfully motioning to change location when at least one plaintiff in the action is a legal resident of Texas. In other words, the legal status of a plaintiff as a Texas resident – which rarely reflects its actual, practical state of residence/headquarters – will no longer be enough to defeat a motion under forum non conveniens, unless the incident in question happened within the state of Texas. In essence, the bill is designed to protect the jam-packed Texas dockets from having to preside over personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits that have little – if anything – to do with the state. 

HB 735, which was sent to the governor on May 30, 2015, works to add a definition of “net worth” to the civil code while simultaneously limiting the circumstances in which one party can unearth the total net worth of another. The bill follows a string of Texas cases that permit courts to asses a defendant’s net worth when determining an appropriate punitive damages amount, however courts were not afforded a framework or guideline in order to make such a determination. 

Using HB 735, courts are authorized to allow discovery of a defendant’s net worth only where a plaintiff has demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of a punitive damages claim. Further, trial courts must mandate plaintiffs use the “least burdensome” method available to quantify net worth, which has been officially defined as “the total assets of a person minus the total liabilities of the person on a date determined appropriate by the trial court.”

If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit and are not sure how to calculate damages – or even where to file – contact the Dallas, Texas personal injury Sawicki Law Firm today at (888)468-8844. 

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