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Study Indicates Texas Appellate Court Rulings Now More Fair to Plaintiffs

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According to a story in the Texas Lawbook, the courts of appeals in Texas have been treating litigants much more fairly in 2019 than in the past. A study found that during the final four months of 2018, Republican-controlled appellate courts reversed a whopping 39 percent of cases won by plaintiffs at the trial court level but overturned only five percent of verdicts won by defendants. By percentage, that meant defendants were eight times more likely to successfully appeal their case compared to plaintiffs.

In addition, 63 percent of those reversals were based on “legally insufficient” evidence, which effectively meant that the court was substituting its judgment about the value and admissibility of evidence for that of the jury. If juries are constitutionally protected finders of fact, it seems to me that disregarding those fact findings at this rate is something that the voters need to consider when picking appellate judges.

However, the 2018 election radically changed the partisan makeup of the appellate courts throughout the state. In 2019, the appellate courts that shifted from Republican-controlled to Democratic-controlled—those being Dallas, Austin, and both Houston courts—have seen the most pronounced changes.

The same study indicates that while defendants are still prevailing more than plaintiffs, the gap has narrowed significantly. In 2019, Texas appellate courts have reversed 17 percent of appealing plaintiffs’ verdicts and overturned 18 percent of appealing defendants’ verdicts. Due to the large disparity in the number of appeals taken by defendants as opposed to plaintiffs, there are still a much greater number of cases being reversed in favor of defendants, but based on the percentages, plaintiffs are certainly getting a more fair shot at justice than before.

Having had cases for which I prepared for trial, spent time and money on during trial, and received a favorable verdict for, only to have the court of appeals take away the verdict and replace it with nothing based on “legal insufficiency,” I can only say it is about time that appellate courts are getting demonstrably more fair and balanced.  Since there is now a greater chance of a jury’s finding being upheld on appeal, the insurance companies will have to adjust their models and, over time, should also become more-fair in their pre-trial and post-trial evaluations of injury cases in Texas.

The McCraw Law Group is experienced in prosecuting injury cases, and our dedicated attorneys could guide you through each step of the process. Call today to learn more.