The Texas Senate has passed a new version of a “loser pays” tort reform bill recently approved in the Texas House of Representatives. Set for reconciliation with the House legislation, the measure is apparently supported by Governor Rick Perry (R), trial lawyers, defense attorneys, and tort-reform proponents.

The Senate’s revised version of H.B. 274 aims to help businesses burdened by meritless lawsuits by allowing judges to rule on merits of civil cases much earlier in the process, limiting discovery and assessing court costs equitably at the end of a case. “Attorneys fees can be assessed against prevailing parties,” Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston), a former judge who helped craft the revisions, told a news source. “The Supreme Court will write the rules concerning how these cases are handled, and we’ll have to see over time how they are used, but this will be another tool in the tool box that judges can use.”

The House had passed a watered-down version of the “loser pays” bill, calling for lawsuit losers to pay the winning side’s court costs and legal fees. Additional details about the House bill appear in the May 12, 2011, issue of this Report. See Austin American-Statesman, May 21, 2011; Associated Press, May 24, 2011.