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March 10, 2021      4:00 PM

Serious pushback leads to a change of tactics by Chair Leach as he pushes to rein in lawsuits stemming from trucking accidents

After at first pushing an aggressive timeline, Chairman Leach gives stakeholders room to negotiate; critics argue “Yes, there’s a crisis...of trucks killing Texans, trucks carrying heavier loads and driving faster than ever"

Chairman Jeff Leach, R-Allen, has backed off an early decision to push a trucking tort reform substitute through his committee next week; instead, he will bring together trial lawyers and lawsuit reform advocates to broker a substitute on Monday.

House Bill 19 – which drew a 12-hour hearing at Texas House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence this week – is perhaps the most significant tort reform bill of the session, intended to cut down on massive jury verdicts that have led to double-digit increases in insurance premiums.

For a bill that is so contentious – one that pits the Texas Trial Lawyers Association against Texans for Lawsuit Reform – testimony was surprisingly useful on Tuesday, with Leach pushing witnesses to walk through their cases and pin down their objections and other attorneys on the committee.

Rep. Julie Johnson, D-Carrollton, and Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, offered strong counterpoint solutions.

Leach opened his hearing, saying HB 19 was still a work in progress and he was open to all feedback. That was after aggressively defending the filed version the previous day, arguing on social media that “It’ll be a great law for ALL Texans (except greedy trial lawyers).”

He later walked back the language about “greedy trial lawyers” and by the time the hearing started, Leach was acknowledging the bill contained flaws he intends to fix.

By Kimberly Reeves

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