AMERICA'S Queen of Torts - that is the title Texas has earned because of the growth of litigation here, says Michael Weiss, a fellow at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Texas is 50 percent above the national average in product-liability suits.
From 1981 to 1989, tort filings in Texas rose 70 percent. Little wonder - even plaintiffs with absurd claims have won big money. A jury in Matagorda County ordered an insecticide manufacturer to pay $8.5 million to a rancher in the death of a prize bull valued at $1.5 million. A ranch employee who could not read English applied concentrated insecticide in violation of the label.
When it comes to lawsuits, Matagorda County is to Texas what Texas is to the world. Juries are so generous that plaintiffs go to great lengths to find a pretext to sue there. Businesses have gone to even greater lengths to avoid the county. After $10 million in lawsuit losses, Southern Pacific Railroad removed its tracks there.
Everyone, it seems, wants a piece of the action. When a truck rammed a school bus, killing 21 children, the truck driver, seven volunteer firefighters called to the scene, a police officer, and a bystander were among those filing more than 100 lawsuits.
Litigation costs Texas $25 billion each year, yet less than half of every liability dollar goes to the injured party, according to
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse. Legal costs eat up the rest.