Do Texas Med-Mal Damage Caps Work? (What Do You Mean By “Work”?)

In a headline at Point of Law, the Manhattan Institute blog dedicated to tort “reform,” comes this: Texas Med-Mal Damage Caps Worked.

And in support of that headline, Andrew Grossman recaps this article with data about the reduction of payouts for pain and suffering (“non-economic” loss) since Texas slashed the ability of injured people to hold the wrongdoers accountable for their conduct:

The Texas cap reduced allowed non-economic damages in tried cases by an estimated 73 percent, allowed verdicts by 38 percent, and payouts by 27 percent. As expected, settlement payouts declined, by 18 percent.

But what, exactly does it mean for a statute to “work” when it reduces the ability of the most badly injured individuals to recover for their loss?

  • Does offering government protectionism for tortfeasors mean it works?
  • Does stopping those who’ve been victimized from recovering from their loss mean it works?
  • Does destroying the concept of personal responsibility for one’s actions mean it works?

If the objective is to offer windfalls to those whose negligence has injured others then one might say it works. But that doesn’t makes it good public policy.

I’ve always found it odd that the tort “reform” movement is lead by those whose political philosophy is to have less government intervention and more personal responsibility. Because tort “reform” is just the opposite.

But some have seen the light. Below is a list of a few “reformers” that have been covered in this blog that no longer believe that insurance company profits are more important than making the victims whole again. I’ve excerpted it from The Bubbe Maisse Report (aka “Judicial Hellholes”):

Another Tort “Reformer” Sees The Light:

Dr. Dave Stewart is a California anesthesiologist. He supported tort “reform.” Then his 72 year old mother died after knee surgery from an undiagnosed bowel obstruction. When the family tried to hire a lawyer, they were turned down by two dozen different medical malpractice attorneys.

Tort “Reform”, Trent Lott, and Changing Fortunes: Aside from Trent Lott, it deals with Frank Cornelius

In 1975, I helped persuade the Indiana Legislature to pass what was acclaimed as a pioneering reform of the medical malpractice laws: a $500,000 cap on damage awards, and elimination of all damages for pain and suffering. I argued successfully that such limits would reduce health care costs and encourage physicians to stay in Indiana — the same sort of arguments that not underpin the medical industry’s call for national malpractice reform.

Today, from my wheelchair, I rue that that accomplishment. Here is my story.

Tort “Reform” Gone Bad. And the Personal Injury Round-Up: With this story from a “reformer” and medical oncologist:

It appeared that the case would be resolved quickly, considering that the defendant freely admitted his error. However, this turned out to be far from true.

As I’d expected, the jury found the original pathologist negligent. But, to my surprise, Mary wasn’t awarded any damages… The jurors reasoned that the pathologist had not acted maliciously, and that if he were found liable for a monetary award, he might leave the state. They were likely influenced by political ads that ran during the state’s tort reform ballot campaign, describing physicians who were leaving Nevada because of its malpractice crisis.

Tort “Reformer” Michael Savage Brings Lawsuit:

Right wing radio talk-show host and tort “reformer” Michael Savage has brought a lawsuit. The infraction? He was quoted by an Islamic group on its website in which he called the Quran a “book of hate” and said Muslims “need deportation.”

Robert Bork Brings Trip/Fall Suit for Over $1M, Plus Punitive Damages And Legal Fees

Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork has sued the Yale Club for an amount “in excess of $1,000,000,” plus punitive damages, as a result of a trip and fall accident on June 6, 2006. The Complaint is here via the WSJ. The accident happened while he was climbing to the dais for a speech, and there were no steps or handrail for the 79-year old Bork to hold on to.

Remember: Tort “reform” is an idea promulgated by people who’ve never been badly injured by the negligence of others.
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See also:

  1. George W. Bush
  2. ABC News Correspondent John Stossel
  3. Sen Rick Santorum
  4. “Lawsuit Abuse” Group Founder and Trustee, Sterling Cornelius
  5. Texans for Lawsuit Reform Board Members

Links to this post:

med mal caps work… against med mal victims, that is.
eric turkewitz points out that when folks claim that capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice claims “works,” they often conveniently neglect to explain what “working” really means. he writes:
posted by Kia Franklin @ April 15, 2009 4:29 PM

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