Monday, November 24, 2014

Follow us:
Follow us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Subscribe to this news feed 

News

Austin

Judicial politics leave some plaintiffs in limbo

  • Text size: + -
TWC News: Judicial politics leave some plaintiffs in limbo
Play now

Time Warner Cable video customers:
Sign in with your TWC ID to access our video clips.

  To view our videos, you need to
enable JavaScript. Learn how.
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.

Then come back here and refresh the page.

A personal tragedy has turned into a very public legal fight for one Texas family. It's a story that may shed some light on weaknesses within the state's judicial system.

Imagine not being able to remember where you were sitting at a restaurant after a simple trip to the restroom. That’s the life Michelle Gaines leads today. A traumatic brain injury suffered in a devastating car wreck in 2006 robbed her of a healthy mind. Then, a jury in her community awarded her $8 million, before a court of appeals overturned it. Now, the Texas Supreme Court is refusing to hear the case.

Watch Alana Rocha's story about Michelle Gaines and hear more about the state's high court from Harvey Kronberg.

In 2003, Texas lawmakers overhauled the judicial system and, according to attorneys, made it next-to-impossible for people to have their cases heard at trial.

Michelle Gaines has been at the mercy of her memory since June 2006 -- when a truck carrying a rig slammed into her car. Court documents say the truck lacked working breaks.

“I don’t really remember anything from before. Like I found out, I won prom queen before. I didn’t remember that,” Gaines says. “I guess it’s just like my memory decides if it wants to remember. It’s not fair.”

Her father, Mike Gaines, says it has been a "nightmare" from the day his daughter got hit. He's fought for Michelle since. Three years ago, her mother walked out on the family, and he's balanced managing his auto repair business and life at home.

Earlier this summer the Texas Supreme Court refused to hear his daughter's case.

“It was like another blow, another setback, and thinking it's probably all over and telling my daughter that it looks like it’s all over. That she’ll never be able to do anything she wanted to do. That she’ll basically be living off 700 dollars a month for the rest of her life,” Mike Gaines says.

Michelle Gaines says she is still very "disappointed." When asked if she remembers the appeals court ruling, she responds, “Yeah, I remember that. That’s a devastating thing to forget.”

Brooks Shuelke is a personal injury attorney in Austin who says he has to turn away 80-percent of the people seeking to file a lawsuit, due largely in part to tort reform.

“It’s just another example of the courts of appeals, or the supreme court trying to substitute their judgment for the what the jury does,” Shuelke says about the Gaines case.

A study of the Supreme Court from 2004 to 2005 showed defendants won 87 percent of the time, and Shuelke says it's only gotten worse.

“There’s no question from the governor, the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch there is an assault on the right to a jury trial and the right to allow individuals to bring their claims,” he says.

Gaines' attorneys filed a motion for the Supreme Court to reconsider her case.
That motion is still pending, but Shuelke doesn't think it's likely that the entirely Republican body will reverse its original decision. And, Michelle Gaines still hopes to live independently someday.

“I am pretty pissed off at the supreme court. I really, really, really wish you would hear my case, cause this wreck has devastated my life,” she says.

Gov. Perry Returns to Iowa

Dallas Morning News' Senior Political Writer recently accompanied Gov. Perry on his trip to the Iowa State Fair. Perry was campaigning for Mitt Romney. But some say he was also campaigning for himself.

TWC News: Judicial politics leave some plaintiffs in limbo
Play now

Time Warner Cable video customers:
Sign in with your TWC ID to access our video clips.

  To view our videos, you need to
enable JavaScript. Learn how.
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.

Then come back here and refresh the page.

Capital Commentary

Our Capital Commentators Harold Cook and Ted Delisi partake in "Ryan Mania" this week on "Capital Tonight."

TWC News: Judicial politics leave some plaintiffs in limbo
Play now

Time Warner Cable video customers:
Sign in with your TWC ID to access our video clips.

  To view our videos, you need to
enable JavaScript. Learn how.
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.

Then come back here and refresh the page.

A Purple District in Williamson County

Because of the growth of Williamson County, a newly-drawn Texas House district is now anchored in Cedar Park. The race to win that seat is between a Republican Cedar Park city council member, Tony Dale, and a Democrat and small business owner, Matt Stillwell. We caught up with Mr. Stillwell to learn a little more about why he's running for the seat.

TWC News: Judicial politics leave some plaintiffs in limbo
Play now

Time Warner Cable video customers:
Sign in with your TWC ID to access our video clips.

  To view our videos, you need to
enable JavaScript. Learn how.
install Adobe Flash 9 or above. Install now.

Then come back here and refresh the page.

10.11.12.248 ClientIP: 54.166.101.170, 23.3.13.20 UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 (http://commoncrawl.org/faq/) Profile: TWCSAMLSP