"Loser Pays" Bills Filed in the House and Senate

In advance of today's bill filing deadline, lawmakers have introduced two bills that would require losing parties to pay attorneys' fees in a variety of civil lawsuits.

State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Southside Place, filed SB 13, which includes a provision that would allow prevailing parties in lawsuits to recover litigation costs in certain civil claims, including those for disputes over contracts, rendered services and preformed labor. The bill includes measures focused solely on plaintiffs, like this one: If a plaintiff rejects a defendant's offer to settle and the difference between the damages awarded to the defendant is equal or greater than 10 percent of the settlement offer, then they have to pay attorneys' fees.

State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, filed HB 274, which contains the same initial loser-pays provision as Huffman's but adds a focus on contingency fee lawyers. It holds them — not the party they represent — liable for the other side's attorneys' fees if a court finds they have a "financial interest" in a case that it deems is an "abusive civil action."

Gov. Rick Perry has touted loser-pays as the next step for tort reform in the state. But state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas, who sits on the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee, told The Texas Tribune in a story today that it is unlikely that loser-pays legislation will gain traction this session.

“I know there are a lot of Texans interested in some form of loser-pay legislation,” Hartnett said. “But I think it will have an uphill battle this session, given all the other pressing items that the Legislature has to deal with."

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