Texas Lawyer: How “Loser Pays” Can Affect People’s Willingness to Go to Court

March 11, 2012 by

As a Texas lawyer who handles many personal injury cases, I understand the value of the American Rule, which is the principle that each litigant will pay his or her own attorney’s fees, whether the case is won or lost. It protects the rights of average citizens who want to fight for their rights in court against very wealthy individuals or large corporations, because they can do so without the fear of being burdened with exorbitant legal fees if their case isn’t won.

Texas Lawyer Shares Example of the Downside of “Loser Pays”

 Recent changes in Texas have made it possible in some cases to get around the American Rule, instead instituting a “loser pays” aspect to the law. An August 2011 case demonstrates why this change can be detrimental to our justice system. Jamie Leigh Jones took the government contractor KBR to court in connection with an alleged rape in Iraq in 2005. She asked for $145 million, but the jury rule against her.

 During the course of the case, the company had deep pockets and racked up millions in legal costs, and it filed a motion seeking $2 million in attorney’s fees from Jones, calling the lawsuit frivolous. Since she filed her claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, attorney fees can be awarded to the prevailing party.

 Her Texas lawyer has stated that his firm will end up earning nothing from the case, although he continues to file motions on her behalf after KBR demanded the fees. He went on to claim that the motion “was filed for the purpose of chilling the prosecution of claims by other victims of this company's abuse wishing to have their cases heard by a jury."

 This is precisely why the American Rule is important. Whether or not there are other victims in this particular case, the threat of paying a huge legal bill (that you had no control over) if your case is lost can keep people who have completely legitimate legal matters away from the court. They can in essence be bullied by people or corporations who have greater financial means at their disposal.

 Luckily, the American Rule is still in effect for most civil and personal injury cases, so if you have suffered a personal injury or need help with another civil matter, I encourage you to contact my office to talk to an experienced Texas lawyer.

 If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, contact Marc Whitehead, a board certified personal injury attorney in Houston, Texas or download our free ebook, Car & Truck Crashes, 10 Secrets Victims Should Know To Protect Their Rights.