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Happy liability-free holidays

By December 16, 2013January 6th, 2014No Comments

Via the San Antonio Express News

As the holiday song popularized by Andy Williams claims, it should be the most wonderful time of the year. Yet, it can turn into the most litigious season with party hosts and guests concerned about liability, unregulated lawsuit lenders making a holiday push for clients, and businesses working to ensure their 2014 doesn’t start mired in questionable litigation.

Even in a state that has done so much to ensure our courts are used for justice, not greed, folks still fear lawsuits that can drain their bank account or shutter their business. Despite reforms, no one is fully immune to lawsuit abuse, but we can and should work to raise awareness of its costs, curb lawsuits that are more about greed than justice, and help prevent unnecessary suits from ever finding their way to court.

Party hosts — from Christmas to New Years to the Super Bowl — should take steps to ensure a safe and liability-free celebration.

If you’re inviting guests for festivities that include alcohol, take the extra step to plan or provide alternative forms of transportation for your guests, including designated drivers or cabs. Steer clear of self-service bars, opting instead for a party with a bartender well versed in identifying underage and intoxicated drinkers. Halting the flow of alcohol well in advance of the end of the party is another common sense tip. Arm yourself with a few simple liability tips, and it’s certain to be a far more stress-free lawsuit-free holiday.

And, if you’re currently involved in a lawsuit, beware of companies promising to bankroll lawsuits with loans that seem too good to be true. Warning: they are. Predatory lawsuit lenders exploit people in dire financial straits. These companies often ramp up operations during the holidays, staffing up “to brace for the busy holiday funding season.”

Such firms operate virtually regulation-free in Texas, often preying on consumers at their most vulnerable. These firms guarantee instant cash, and subsequently charge extremely high interest rates. Despite the best efforts of some state legislators, these companies remain virtually unregulated.

And, it may be cold outside, but the coffee is hot, and the lawsuits keep flowing. A Jefferson County woman recently sued a convenience store after she spilled coffee on herself at a self-service drink area in 2010. The woman claims the store failed to warn her that the hot coffee was … well … hot. Ring a bell?

Ridiculous lawsuits clog up already overloaded court and delay or dilute justice for the truly injured.

It can be the most wonderful time of the year, if we protect ourselves against excessive litigation and predatory lawsuit lenders. Let’s resolve this New Year to renew the commitment to common sense reforms that protect small business owners, families and our communities from lawsuit abuse.

Febe Zepeda is executive director of the Rio Grande Valley Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA).

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