cap was at the center of 2003 'tort reform' law
A federal judge in east Texas has upheld the key provision of that 2003 Texas tort reform law, rejecting a challenge by the plaintiff’s bar that restricting so called ‘pain and suffering’ damages to between $250,000 and $750,000 amounts to an unconstitutional taking of private property, 1200 WOAI news reports.
The tort reform state Constitutional Amendment was designed to make Texas more friendly to physicians practices by cutting back on the number of ‘junk lawsuits’ filed against hospitals, doctors, and other medical professionals.
Among the plaintiffs was the family of former Dallas Cowboy Ron Springs, who died after a four year coma.
U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap in Marshall issued a one page ruling rejecting all claims by plaintiffs who sought to have the cap thrown out.
“The court’s decision removes any lingering uncertainty about the voter approved cap on non economic damages,” said Mike Hull, general counsel of the Texas Alliance for Patient Access. “A trial lawyer victory would have gutted the benefits of reform and been a big blow to the delivery of health care.”
The law does not affect the amounts a jury can award a victim of medical malpractice for past, president, and future medical costs as well as lost wages.
The lawsuit argued that the cap had a ‘direct impact on an injured patient’s potential jury award’ and made some medical malpractice lawsuits not worth pursuing. Judge Gilstrap also rejected claims that the cap ‘bars access to the courts.’
Prior to 2003,most Texas doctors had seen their insurance costs double and many had stopped taking emergency calls or restricted their practice out of fear it would make them vulnerable to a career-threatening lawsuit.
Since the passage of the caps, Texas doctors have seen their liability rates cut in half and new doctors have flocked to the state in record numbers. In fact, physician growth has outpaced population growth every year since 2007, and the ranks of so called ’high risk specialists,’ like OB-GYNs have grown at twice that rate.