When Greg Abbott (R), Texas attorney general and gubernatorial candidate, was 26-years-old he was jogging through in a Houston neighborhood when a 75-foot post oak tree snapped at its base and fell, striking him in the back. The tree crushed Abbott’s spine, leaving him immediately paralyzed from the waist down and confined to a wheelchair for life.
Abbott had no pay check (he was a recent law school graduate, just beginning his career, when the accident occurred) and no health insurance. Now, he had no feeling in his legs. Abbott did what most seriously injured victims would do in his situation – he filed a personal injury lawsuit against the homeowner and the tree service company that had inspected the tree in the prior year. The lawsuit alleged negligence for failing to warn people about the dangerous tree or taking action to prevent it from falling. In addition to claiming medical expenses that had exceeded $82,000 in the first year alone, the lawsuit sought non-economic damages stating Abbott’s injuries resulted in physical pain, mental anguish and physical impairment, as well as the reduced capacity to work.
Ultimately, the case settled. In accordance with the settlement agreement, Abbott receives guaranteed monthly income plus periodic lump sum payments that increase with the cost of living. He is entitled to monthly income from the settlement until he dies. To put this in perspective, the first year Abbott received a lump sum payment of $300,000 and began collecting monthly payments of $5,000. Twenty-nine years later, he receives approximately $14,400 a month. By the end of this year, he will have received $5.8 million. If Abbott lives through 2022, when he will turn 65, he will have received another $3.5 million pushing the total value of his settlement past $9 million, or about $11 million using inflation-adjusted dollars. Abbott has said that he relies on the settlement to help pay for medical expenses and other costs associated with being paralyzed, as well as other costs that most people would never think of. These include costs for modifications to ramps, his home, and his automobile just to remain mobile.
Considering his accidental misfortune, one would think Mr. Abbott would be sympathetic to injury victims and use his bully pulpit to help others that have suffered the same or similar misfortunes. He has been reasonably compensated; shouldn’t he be an advocate for those who are in similar situations? Instead, he has placed his own political interests above the injured and disabled citizens of Texas; he slammed the courtroom doors in their faces. The policies that he advocates and helped secure into Texas law make it impossible for innocent victims to be fairly compensated for their serious injuries. In other words, what was good for the goose is not good for the gander. What’s up with that?
Mr. Abbott has been outspoken in his support for the tort reforms. He says tort reform is needed to curb “frivolous lawsuits”. What a hypocrite! For example, under Abbott’s policies, if a patient is left paralyzed from the waist down due to a doctor’s negligence, tort reform caps non-economic damages at $250,000 with no built-in increases over time, to keep up with the rising cost of living. And, let’s not forget who we are talking about. Abbott has sued the federal government 27 times; (20 since President Obama took office) at the expense of taxpayers. The cost for Texas alone is $2.58 million. Of those 27 cases, he has won five. Do we assume the other 22 were frivolous cases, Mr. Abbott? Were these 22 loses frivolous expenditures of taxpayer money?
Abbott would probably agree that no money could ever compensate him for his injuries. He would most likely give back all the money if he could walk again. Yet, he denies others the rights he was afforded. He launched an effort to strike down the Americans with Disabilities Act because it was “unconstitutional.” Fortunately, he lost. The “innocent victim” Greg Abbott continues to enjoy the benefits of an $11 million settlement while the “politician” Greg Abbott fights against the rights of others victims by denying them the same rights afforded him.
No one chooses to be permanently disabled in an accident; fate decides these things. What happens if you or someone you love is permanently disabled? Who supports them or their families? Who pays for their medical expenses and modifications to their home or vehicle? The perpetrator (and his insurance carrier) should be the one responsible for these massive expenses. However, if we do not hold the person or company that caused the disability, it is the taxpayer who becomes responsible! Why? Because tort reform limits the rights of those injured by defective products, medical malpractice, and other wrongdoing and shifts responsibility to entitlement programs. Tort reform cripples our civil justice system by tying the hands of judges and juries who hear the evidence in a case. This is the outcome Greg Abbott supports, for everyone except himself. So, ask yourself this question: Do you want a hypocrite as your next Governor?
Lawsuit Financial encourages everyone to educate themselves on “tort reform” before it is too late to turn back. Greg Abbott’s campaign is nothing but a continuation of Governor Rick Perry’s. I suggest you read (or re-read) my blog post “Top Ten Things Rick Perry Should Apologize For (So Far…Campaign Has Just Begun!)” highlighting some of Perry’s history. Texans: you don’t need a fifth term of Rick Perry. Vote for the other guy; whoever he/she may be.
Mark Bello has thirty-six years experience as a trial lawyer and fourteen years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by a plaintiff involved in pending, personal injury, litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Member of Public Justice, Public Citizen, the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.