In 2003 the Texas Legislature passed many sweeping laws that directly affect the right of injured patients to have recourse against a doctor or hospital that caused them harm. Every lawsuit filed has a cap of non-economic damages placed at $250,000. This means that damages for the emotional loss a child’s mother, or a medical mistake that causes permanent scarring and disfigurement, or the losses a grieving parent can receive if their child suffers death at the hands of a negligent healthcare provider, are capped at $250,000. and no recovery above that amount can be sought for those injuries and losses.
If a patient suffers economic losses, such as lost income or future hospital bills, those can be recovered in addition to the non-economic losses. Essentially, if a highly paid executive (or perhaps a highly paid doctor) is injured at the hands of a negligent hospital, they can recover the cap amount, along with compensation for all of their future lost earnings. A housewife, child, elderly retired individual, however, is left without any options.
The result is simple. The legislature told us they were going to stop “frivolous cases” from entering the courts. Then they proceeded to place caps and barriers on valid, meritorious cases. Attorneys that handle medical negligence cases now have to repeatedly tell injured victims that they have a valid complaint, but because it is so expensive to pursue a doctor or hospital, and because the laws do not allow then full recovery, their case cannot be pursued. The proponents of the law indicated that the so-called “medical malpractice crisis” needed caps to lower insurance premiums for doctors and to stop doctors from leaving the practice of medicine. However, there is no reliable evidence that malpractice caps reduce insurance rates. And, if medical malpractice payouts are reduced by these caps, it is at the expense of the most severely injured.
When the law was being proposed, a former Republican Texas Supreme Court Justice argued against amending the constitution to cap these cases. Now, the Texas Hospital Association and the Texas Medical Association have decided to use the court system for their own benefit. They are seeking to have the Texas Supreme Court hold that the law passed in 2003 was constitutional. They have preemptively file a suit seeking this ruling to effectively cut off other potential challenges to the cap law that may be filed by victims in the future.