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The latest issue of BusinessWeek features on its cover a story headlined, "How Business Trounced The Trial Lawyers," which says, in short: It's hard out her for a pimp...pardon, personal-injury attorney. Especially in the state o' Texas, where, the mag says, well into the 1990s, "Lone Star State plaintiffs' lawyers walked tall [having] pioneered asbestos litigation in the U.S., racked up eye-popping verdicts in cases involving everything from business fraud to diet drugs, and perfected the art of 'forum shopping.'" But those glory days are long over, a thing of the not-so-distant past thanks to rulings like the one in 2003 that bars injury suits "against a seller more than 15 years after a product is sold." Damn that tort reform.
Now that it's harder than ever for folks to bring suits against Big Bidness, especially mass-injury class-action suits, lawyers are having to look elsewhere for their hard-earned. Take this extremely local anecdote from BW, for instance:
In late November about 300 attorneys descended on the W Dallas-Victory hotel for the annual conference of the Texas Trial Lawyers Assn. But rather than plotting the next industry-threatening mega-litigation, their goals were decidedly more modest. Attendees could sign up for a full-day "car wrecks seminar." One presentation explored whether an automobile manufacturer's failure to include electronic stability control on a crashed vehicle could be the basis for a negligence claim. Another offered tips on creating "trial exhibits on a budget."
Coming up with creative new lines of litigation--and doing it on the cheap--is imperative for plaintiffs' lawyers in Texas these days. No other state's trial bar has suffered a greater reversal of fortune.
Now, if only one of them attorneys had fallen of the "ghostdeck" at Ghostbar. Imagine the settlement. --Robert Wilonsky