Texas Supreme Court earlier in September, declined to hear a case on whether or not medical malpractice damage caps violate state constitutional rights.
Attorneys for the hospital industry and the Texas Medical Association (TMA) had appealed the issue directly to the Supreme Court, bypassing the court of appeals. The attorneys claim when the Legislature in 2003 approved caps on non-economic damages, it allowed such direct appeals on constitutional questions.
The patient in the district court case had contended that the $250,000 cap violated constitutional provisions such as the right to due process, equal protection and jury trials.
Texas revamped the state medical malpractice law by adopting the tort reform bill (House Bill 4) regarding health care liability claims in 2003, which includes limits on non-economic damages. Economic losses are not capped.
Texas capped non-economic damages at $250,000 and death suits at $1.6 million, one of the lowest caps in the country. Earlier this year a federal class action law suit was filed in Texas, the class seeks a declaration that the non-economic damage cap violates constitutional provisions including violation of Seventh Amendment, the Petition Clause of the First amendment, the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause and the rights guaranteed by the Privileges or Immunities Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
The suit claimed that the cap has a direct impact on a plaintiffs’ potential jury award, the likely extent of recovery in the case and the decision on whether the cost of proof relating to a capped recovery will be worth the effort of pursuing.
Legal Analysis: This medical malpractice bill has chilled the malpractice litigation. Plaintiffs of low or no economic worth like the retired, elderly, housewives, unemployed and children are shafted when it comes to recovery in a med-mal case. Their only recompense for a botched surgery or medical treatment is $250,000 and only if they prevail in a costly and lengthy lawsuit. You have to win to get damages. And most physicians are limiting their insurance coverage to $200.000 per claim.