In a speech last year to a group of maritime defense attorneys, Texas plaintiffs’ lawyer Anthony Buzbee trumpeted the benefits of bringing lawsuits in Starr County, on the western edge of Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. “That venue probably adds about seventy-five percent to the value of the case,” he said. “You’ve got an injured Hispanic client, you’ve got a completely Hispanic jury, and you’ve got an Hispanic judge. All right. That’s how it is.”
In other parts of Texas, Buzbee went on, a plaintiff may have the burden of showing “here’s what the company did wrong, all right? But when you’re in Starr County, traditionally, you need to just show that the guy was working, and he was hurt. And that’s the hurdle: Just prove that he wasn’t hurt at Wal-Mart, buying something on his off time, and traditionally, you win those cases.”
Buzbee had no idea an audience member was taping the speech, which is now being held up by pro-industry lobbyists and Texas legislators as evidence of venue shopping. The groups are using the speech — given last May at a three-day seminar in Nevada for maritime-defense attorneys — to push for limits on where workers may file lawsuits if they’re hurt at sea.