Analyst says tort reform cued Texas' economic rise


According to Walter Olson, in┬áthe early 1980's Texas courts were battlefields for trial lawyers.   File photo

The combination of the competitive tax and regulatory policies of tort reform have cultivated the field for Texas' pro-growth policies to take root according to Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

According to Olson, in the early 1980's Texas courts were battlefields for trial lawyers. Texas recognized few limits on damage claims and imposed minimal accountability on plaintiffs. Lead lawmakers asked if the Texas constitution's statement written in Article 1, Section 13 stating, "all courts shall be open, and every person for an injury done him...shall have remedy by due course of law," prevented putting reasonable limits on liability.

"The state legislatures' verdict to strike a balance and roll back tort extremes signified a pivotal point in the state's economic rise," Olson wrote. "The Texas-Pennzoil case and generosity to judges of deceased Joe Jamail, America's wealthiest lawyer, and early statutory enactments struck down the state's highest court. The turning point came when 'the general electorate finally began taking an interest in judicial elections.'"

Olson wrote the reformation under then-Gov. George W. Bush has continued Govs. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott.

The success of the tort reforms in a new economic climate, according to Olson, have encouraged growth in the state's medical sector.

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