Texas Supreme Court does the right thing, for a change. A provision in the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code contains a retroactive prohibition against asbestos lawsuits in regard to one particular company. Retroactive prohibitions of any kind are very rare. This provision was passed as part of several tort reform amendments in 2003. See Texas Civ.Pra. & Rem. Code Sec. 149. It is even more rare for a provision to ever say as Sec. 149 says, "The limitations in Section 149.003 shall apply to a domestic corporation or a foreign corporation that has had a certificate of authority to transact business in this state or has done business in this state and that is a successor which became a successor prior to May 13, 1968. . . "
It does read like a statute designed to protect one particular company. The Texas Supreme Court appears to agree. See Texas Lawyer report. The court found this provision unconstitutional (ie, the Texas Constitution). Retroactive provisions are scrutinized more closely than normal statutes. A typical statute would limit or prohibit something in the future, not the past. A retroactive application is seen as depriving someone of a particular right of some sort. The court found that Sec. 149 does not satisfy the requirements of a retroactive law.
This issue matters to Barbara Robinson. A normal or prospective statute would have had no effect on Barbara Robinson’s lawsuit. Her lawsuit was already filed when the tort reforms were passed in 2003. Only a retroactive statute could affect her lawsuit.
Barbara and John Robinson sued a company, Crown Cork in 2002. Crown Cork fit the definition in Sec. 149. Sec. 149 protected Crown Cork. John Robinson was exposed to asbestos with the Navy from 1956 to 1976. The predecessor corporation to Crown Cork manufactured the asbestos to which John had been exposed. Sec. 149 passed into effect on June 11, 2003. Crown Cork promptly moved for summary judgment . John Robinson died days later. His widow, Barbara, appealed and lost at the Houston Court of Appeals. Now, the Texas Supreme Court, years later, has overturned the Houston Court of Appeals.
Sec. 149 was passed while the Robinson suit was pending. It is likely that whoever sponsored Sec. 149 amendment knew its effect. Former Chief Justice Tom Phillips represents Crown Cork. The company is well-connected on several levels.