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Accident records to be reopened, court of appeals rules

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Accident records to be reopened, court of appeals rules

  • Texas lawmakers acted unconstitutionally when they passed legislation banning people from using accident records to find potential customers.

March 19, 2003 — A Texas appeals court in Austin ruled unanimously March 6 that a law protecting accident victims from solicitations is unconstitutional.

“Because [House Bill] 1544 is not limited to a particular type of solicitation, nor is it restricted by a time limit, we conclude that it is neither reasonably tailored or proportional to the harm the state seeks to prevent,” the court held. “Instead, the statute imposes a permanent ban on individuals who seek to conduct their business by using legally obtained information.”

In 2001, the Texas legislature passed and Gov. Rick Perry signed legislation that made it illegal for companies to use information obtained from accident reports for commercial purposes.

Anderson Courier Service, ACC-A-FAX, Accident Review and Eric Randolph, a chiropractor, filed a lawsuit challenging the measure. All used accident reports for solicitation, marketing or accident investigations.

The appellate court noted that the state produced only scant evidence that the majority of accident victims would be harmed by solicitations. The state produced only a single witness and provided no “data or empirical evidence” that the legislation prevented accident victims from experiencing some harm.

The court also ruled that the state offered no explanation as to why “less burdensome alternatives,” were not considered. It posited that a waiting period before accident victims could be contacted might have been more appropriate than the legislation that was passed.

(Anderson Courier Service v. Texas; Counsel for respondents: Javier P. Guajardo) GS

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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