By Angela Morris, Texas Lawyer
A state senator and representative have filed identical bills that would change definitions and give judges more leeway when deciding whether to dismiss a plaintiff’s death or injury lawsuit because it would be better in an out-of-state court.
Senate Bill 1942 and House Bill 1692 both address the 2014 Texas Supreme Court opinion in In Re Ford Motor, which required the high court to define “plaintiff” under the state’s forum non conveniens statute. In that case, a Mexican national died in a car accident in Mexico. His wrongful death beneficiaries sued Ford Motor Company in a Texas court. The company argued that they weren’t “plaintiffs” under forum non conveniens but the high court disagreed, noting that it relied on a “Texas-resident exception” in the law.
The bills would delete that exception—a definition of “legal resident” as someone, perhaps a national of a foreign country, who intended for Texas to be his home, or intended to return to the state after an absence.
The bills also make it clear that a “plaintiff” is not someone who intervened or became a beneficiary, next friend or other derivative party. The definition also wouldn’t include the estate of a decedent who was not a legal Texas resident at death.
Under current law, a court cannot stay or dismiss a plaintiff’s lawsuit if the plaintiff is a legal resident of Texas. If a case involves a Texas plaintiff and out-of-state plaintiff, the law prohibits a court from dismissing the case so long as the Texas plaintiff was properly joined in the lawsuit and the matter involved “a single occurrence.”
The bills would delete that provision, and replace it with new language: “In determining whether a case should be dismissed under this subchapter, the plaintiff’s choice of a forum in this state shall be given substantial deference, provided that the plaintiff is a legal resident of the state and the underlying litigation has a significant connection to the state.”