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People With Absurd Claims Seek Out This Texas County

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.

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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.

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