In 2003, the Texas Legislature changed the landscape for residential construction litigation. They created the Texas Residential Construction Commission (TRCC)and also set up a “dispute resolution process” that most construction defect cases had to go through before proceeding in the court setting. The law is a disaster for homeowners. Cases sit in the process for ridiculous amounts of time and there is no real mechanism to enforce any finding of wrongdoing by the builders. In short, builders love the bill; homeowners hate it. It is such a resounding success that the staff of the Texas Sunset Commission (which reviews state agencies) issued a scathing report calling for abolition of the Commission, though the Commission itself voted in December to recommend keeping it with significant modifications.
It was apparently such a success that some legislators want to expand the provisions. I received a draft of a bill today that has not yet been filed, but it would create a system similar to the TRCC for commercial construction disputes. However, it goes further; instead of the ridiculous “dispute resolution process” in residential claims, the new bill appears to require arbitration for any dispute relating to a commercial construction defect, potentially including personal injury claims (though the bill itself is vague).
I don’t do commercial construction cases, but I do handle personal injury claims resulting from commercial construction defects. Frankly, I’m appalled, and I hope all other lawyers would be too. The legislature has done some ridiculous things, but even in the egregious medical malpractice limitations they didn’t seek to take away the right to a jury trial.
I’ll be tracking this bill and trying to keep the status updated.
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