Why Are Filings Falling? Civil Lawsuits Down 17 Percent in 10 Years

, Texas Lawyer

   | 15 Comments

"There are a lot of lawyers out there who are trying to make a living. … When you see trends of fewer and fewer cases, the question becomes the sustainability of having cases to file for the lawyers to make a living," said David Slayton.

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Originally appeared in print as Why Are Filings Falling?

What's being said

  • Israel

    Its very simple! Tort Reform. If attorneys‘ cant make money and afford to fund cases, people wont file suits. No one filing medical malpractice claims--even though malpractice is just as a problem as it always has been. When no plaintiffs attorneys filing suits, no need for defense attorneys. Lots of other changes making it less attractive to file suits. Civil attorneys doing more family law cases and employment law. We lawyers wont even be able to afford a lawyer when we need help. Wait and see how litigation start to erase with the big cases. Cant just have litigation for big business. We have people in the legislature and supreme court fixing things that are not broken (many of whom aren‘t practicing law and have no idea what they are doing strangles our profession). All of these changes are having a chill. As to clerks, don‘t expect to have them around too long--they will have nothing to do. Note, less and less support staff at all of the big firms. Sending letters is disappearing. Technology can be good, but does eliminate jobs

  • Fed up fred

    Darren -

    Please call a spade a spade. "Tort Reform" is just "We don‘t trust juries." Tort reform limits access to courts, whether or not there‘s a case. Every single defendant in any law suit thinks the case against them is meritless or BS. If a case is truly without merit, it‘s pretty easy for a judge to toss it.

    Come to Texas, where doctors can kill their patients with impunity, employers can maim their employees without fear of redress. Please be very careful what you wish for.

  • It is time to cut the Texas Supreme Court by 17-18%.

  • Kate McClintic, Washinton, DC

    You heard it here! The legal system is a farce. The public is losing confidence in it. And who monitors the findings of facts and conclusions of law to make sure they are not fiction? We couldn‘t have all these corrupt lawyers without corrupt judges. What profession has less oversight and accountability than the legal profession? Filing appeal is risky and expensive and any report to an attorney or judicial discipline committee is fraternally thrown into a black hole. As I said previously, I‘m just an average American citizen and all three of my experiences were in kangaroo courts.

  • Kate McClintic

    From my experience in three recent lawsuits, whether I had an honest attorney or a crooked one, it didn‘t matter, because opposing counsel had a superior "relationship" with the judges. If litigators actually followed the rules and law as intended, the costs might be worth the price of justice. But fairness, honesty, and justice has nothing to do with it. I know that lawyers have always had a suspect reputation, but I really cannot believe that the legal profession is taken seriously at all anymore--except they‘ve tied it in a Gordian Knot.

  • Angela Morris

    Thanks to everyone for reading the article and for your thoughtful comments! Very interesting topic.

  • Darren McKinney

    The poor (underemployed) lawyers grousing here would have us believe there‘s no connection at all between these two facts: Texas has reined in meritless lawsuits during the past decade while it‘s led the nation in job creation. That sure sounds like a formula by which all states could prosper. Fewer jobs for parasitic personal injury lawyers = more jobs for everyone else.

    -Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, D.C.

  • Darren McKinney

    The poor (underemployed) lawyers grousing here would have us believe there‘s no connection at all between these two facts: Texas has reined in meritless lawsuits during the past decade while it‘s led the nation in job creation. That sure sounds like a formula by which all states could prosper. Fewer jobs for parasitic personal injury lawyers = more jobs for everyone else.

    -Darren McKinney, American Tort Reform Association, Washington, D.C.

  • General-1

    Every lawyer knows that a plaintiff‘s verdict in a jury case has to run a triple gauntlet -- the trial judge, the intermediate appellate court, and the Texas Supreme Court -- to survive. The top court, which regularly calls for (unnecessary, expensive and time-consuming) briefing in all cases, and eliminates long-established rights cavalierly, a la Ritchie v. Rupe, is the worst offender. Is it any wonder that aggrieved Texans are discouraged from even filing a suit?

  • General-1

    Every lawyer knows that a plaintiff‘s verdict in a jury case has to run a triple gauntlet -- the trial judge, the intermediate appellate court, and the Texas Supreme Court -- to survive. The top court, which regularly calls for (unnecessary, expensive and time-consuming) briefing in all cases, and eliminates long-established rights cavalierly, a la Ritchie v. Rupe, is the worst offender. Is it any wonder that aggrieved Texans are discouraged from even filing a suit?

  • Joe K. Longley

    Here‘s a reason.
    In a 2012, the Texas SC totally eliminated workers‘ compensation bad faith claims handling cases in 5-4 decision. See Texas Mutual Ins. Co. v. Ruttiger.
    Only 11 years before, in a unanimous decision, the SC had allowed such actions to proceed as being "ripe for adjudication and should not have been dismissed".
    See American Motorist Ins. Co. v. Fodge.


    Ruttiger made it to the SC in 2008 and was therefor four years before being decided. Seven Justices came and went during the years Ruttiger was before the Court.
    Justice Hecht authored the unanimous Fodge opinion, yet voted with the slim 5-vote majority in Ruttiger.
    As a result, workers compensation claimants no longer have a bad faith cause cause of action against rogue insurance companies, adjusters and third party administrators.

  • Tex

    There are many factors, including:
    1. People are broke - it‘s hard to hire a lawyer when there‘s no money to pay them.
    2. People are broke - so there are less deals being made to sue over.
    3. People are learning the legal system is a farce. It‘s not about right and wrong, it‘s about who has the deepest pockets. For example, take the lawsuit Amway started against me or the Pokorny lawsuit against Amway (called Quixtar at the time). For the details of Amway‘s scam, see www.StopTheAmwayToolScam.wordpress.com

  • Retired Risk Manager

    "There are a lot of lawyers out there trying to make a living". How sad.

    As a risk manager I saw numerous suits that were best described as BS. The attorneys were following the adage of "lets file and see if money appears". Facts, don‘t need no stinking facts.

    I think the decrease is due to lawyers getting the message that stupid fact-less suits will be met with sanctions and requests for fees. The first time that the attorney had to write a check to reimburse the defendant for their costs educated the attorney on screening out the junk.

  • Mayur Amin

    While I can‘t speak for anyone else, my perception and opinion is that the "average Joe" lawyer is losing faith in our justice system. Lawyers who really care about truth, justice and a merit based practice of law may find it difficult, day in and day out, to operate in a highly politicized atmosphere. Only the very few lawyers who have managed to extract themselves out of "the matrix" [so to speak] can continue to operate in this type of environment.

    One solution may be to adopt a procedural system that has the potential consequence of requiring all trial court orders in a case to contain findings of fact and conclusions of law. This should act as a nice counter weight to the drawbacks posed by the current Texas judicial campaign finance system.

    Btw: Angela, you have been selecting excellent topics to write about!

  • Barry R. Benton

    Really, Hecht, who has done more than any jurist in Texas in the past 25 years to truncate injured Texans right to seek redress, doesn‘t know why the number of lawsuits has dropped? How disingenuous.

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