FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 9, 2001
AUSTIN, TX--Yesterday the House failed to approve House Joint Resolution 22, which would authorize a person to sue the state for damages for bodily injury or death sustained as a result of the Texas A&M bonfire tragedy and the Prairie View A&M van crash tragedy. Damages could not exceed $250,000 per person under this legislation. My proposal, Senate Joint Resolution, addresses the same issue, but does not include Prairie View A&M.
I was extremely disappointed and saddened to learn that HJR 22 did not make it out of the House. I had already indicated to Rep. Wilson, the author of the House measure, that I would pick it up in the Senate and that I was trying to get my bill re referred to the Finance Committee on which I sit because Sen. Bivins, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, would not give my SJR a hearing. It is the chair's prerogative.
I had planned to get the rules suspended for my bill to try to get it out before this Friday's deadline for all bills to get out of committee in the Senate. I wanted the members to debate this bill and I felt optimistic that the Senate would approve this legislation, especially because my SJR would not have allowed the cap to be lifted nor did it allow for punitive damages.
The tragedy that the families of the victims have experienced seems insurmountable because they won't even get their day in court, which I personally feel is the least the state should offer any citizen. If nothing else, their concerns needed to be aired out in a public forum, and I felt our judicial system would be the perfect and fairest arena to do this.
It was my privilege to meet with Mrs. Andrea Heard and Mrs. Jacki Self, both mothers who lost their sons, and my heart grieved for them. This is why I filed legislation to help in some manner to address their concerns over what I consider the greatest loss any parent could ever endure.
And in this case, it is a serious matter. These families expressed to me that they believe there was negligence involved, and they wanted to discuss the events of this terrible tragedy in an open forum--a court of law.
One of the students killed in the Bonfire lived in my district for four years. His roommate is one of my constituents, whose father happens to be a lawyer who is representing that family.