Many people have said that elections have consequences. What does this mean? Simply, the people we elect will enact laws and policies that will have serious consequences for our lives. I want to use this article to focus on one area of life here in Texas that elections have had tremendously negative consequences. That is tort reform, which are the reforms enacted by a conservative legislature and right-wing courts that allow insurance companies to avoid paying for their customers’ negligence, to put it bluntly.
Everyone knows that Texas is a red state. As such, each election cycle, conservative politicians across Texas seemingly gain more and more ground over the legislature, courts, state and local agencies, except in some jurisdictions like Dallas County. Once in office, these politicians and judges start enacting laws to protect their wealthy corporate donors. Who does this hurt? The answer is all of us. Safety decreases for all of us because the negligent actors have no incentive to promote safety.
Here’s what happens. God forbid, but let’s say you were injured when you slipped and fell in a store. You fell because there was water on the floor. The water spilled on the floor because the store uses water to keeps its produce fresh. Your injuries are not life threatening, but your kneecap was fractured. Your medical bills total $43,000, not including, your loss wages and other damages.
You failed to get the names of witnesses because you were in excruciating pain, and your mind was not on suing the store. A manager saw the water on the floor and instructed a worker to clean it up. He made a report of everything but failed to mention that there was water on the floor, and he refused to give you a copy of the report. You later learned that a camera inside the store recorded your fall and the water, but the store conveniently lost the footage.
You decided to handle your case yourself, but soon learned that the insurance adjuster is jerking you around. Reluctantly you sought out the services of a lawyer. Your trust for lawyers is low because of the horrible things said about lawyers from tort reform advocates. Nevertheless, you need a lawyer because your medical bills are through the roof, you are in constant pain, you cannot work, your bills are overdue and the insurance company is jerking you around.
Eventually, you find a lawyer who offers you a free consultation. However, she refuses to take your case. She explains that conservative politicians and judges have so reformed the laws over the years that your chances of recovering anything are risky at best. Your anger is building as the lawyer talks because you know the water was obviously on the floor and the manager even acknowledged its presence. The lawyer explains, however, that you will have a difficult task showing the store knew or should have known the water was on the floor. Hence, your lawyer explains that your case will most likely be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to a summary judgment motion.
You left the lawyer’s office even more disgusted than before you went because now you cannot find a decent lawyer willing to take your case. How unfair the system is toward injured people you think to yourself. In fact, you are so disgusted; you research the issue and learn the reform was sponsored by a politician you helped elect. Additionally, judges you voted for on the state supreme and appellate courts upheld the reforms.
This story is not true, but the events happen every day. Conservative politicians, think tanks and advocacy groups use wedge issues such as race, abortion and gay rights to win elections and bamboozle Texans. They are so skilled at their propaganda efforts that they have regular, middle-class Texans voting to protect the interests of the wealthy class.
It all reminds me of a scripture in the Bible; Isaiah 59:14, which says “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.”
Augustus Corbett, Esq.