Over the many years I spent with the Houston Police Department, several of them were in the Office of the Inspector General. While working this assignment, I witnessed and investigated many acts of barratry. Many of these were lawyers or non-lawyers hired as agents for a lawyer pursuing potential clients because of an event they overheard on a police scanner or from information relayed from within the dispatch call center. Barratry, also known as ambulance chasing, was a topic I pursued since taking office.
After presenting a barratry bill during my freshman term in office, the bill did not pass but was considered as an interim charge. The committee determined that barratry was a serious problem occurring statewide. Senator Duncan and I teamed up to pass Senate Bill 1716. Senate Bill 1716 allows a client who was solicited unlawfully to void the contract with the lawyer and recover any actual damages, fees, and expenses. In addition, a person who was solicited but did not sign a contract may recover a civil penalty of $10,000. The bill also gives an innocent lawyer a safe harbor. I am pleased that this legislation passed because it will prevent unscrupulous lawyers and their agents from preying on those negatively affected by unpredictable event.