Shutting the Courthouse Door on Real, Injured Plaintiffs

Most Texas trial lawyers can attest that it’s harder and harder to get some plaintiffs’ cases to court these days. This is particularly true in cases involving victims of medical malpractice or homeowners who discover construction problems with their houses. These types of cases, among others, have been affected drastically by recent changes in the law which have the effect of “closing the courthouse doors” on injured parties.

And as much as it pains me that meritorious consumer cases are being shut out of the courthouse, what really galls me is the huge number of creditors’ lawsuits which are now being filed by the truckload across the state. These suits are often filed by debt-collection firms on behalf of huge retailers and credit card companies, and they use heavy-handed scare tactics to wring out a few dollars from debtors who can’t afford to hire lawyers. Intimidated by being sued and unable to defend themselves, many debtors get sucker-punched with default judgments that can haunt them for years.

I’m not advocating that creditors should not be allowed to pursue legitimate debts, or that debtors should not pay what they legitimately owe. The problem I see is that too many of these suits are being filed against the wrong people, or for the wrong amount, or have some other major defect. Twice in as many months I’ve had people come to me after being sued for debts that were not even theirs. Another time a lady came to me after being sued for a debt that she had been diligently paying off before the original creditor sold the debt to a “Rambo” collection firm.

It’s a shame that the big bully corporations and questionable debt-collectors are now clogging the courts with these dubious suits, particularly now when so many truly injured folks are kept out of the courthouse. Courthouses exist so that the little guy can take on Goliath, not the other way around.