Thursday, October 05, 2006

Tort Reform, Texas Style

There is an incredibly interesting article in this month's ABA Journal. Sadly, it's not up on the web yet, but if it is posted, I will definitely drop a link.

In 2003, Texas passed a massive tort reform bill, capping non-economic damages in medical malpractice cases to $250,000. Trial lawyers, the bogeyman of lawyer-haters, were the main target of the bill, which hoped to prevent runaway juries from making doctors pull up roots and head out.

However, it has not only hurt the trial lawyers. Some interesting points from the article:

  • The crusade against trial lawyers has been effective. Many of the largest plaintiff's firms have either split up, and those remaining make far less money (on the order of 10% of before).
  • However, not only are the plaintiff's firms hurting, the defendant's firms are, as well. With so many fewer suits coming against their hospital and insurance clients, there just isn't enough work to support the largest firms. Many of these have also disbanded.
  • Whereas before, one attorney mentioned in the article would formerly spend $80k-100k in preparation of a case, now they can't even settle for that much, even when there are clear damages, and attorneys are turning down cases they used to chomp at the bit to get.

"Hooray!" come the cheers from those outside the legal profession. And, even though I am going to be a lawyer (hopefully!), there are a lot of lawsuits that probably shouldn't get past summary judgment.

Not so fast... What else might happen when there is no reason to take a case?

It is especially bad for the poor and the elderly. Now, plaintiffs' attorneys won't take cases unless the person is already well-off., and can recover lost wages and earning potential.

So, what does this all mean? In Texas, unless you're rich, don't get hurt!

NOTE: One more reason Texans wanted to cap noneconomic damages? Trial lawyers are historically Democrat donors... Cut their income, and you're cutting the donations to the Democrats.


Blogger Luke Gilman said...

Great post. I read that article with great interest as a law student in Texas planning on practicing here. You hit the nail on the head. The poor are being priced out of the system. To me it makes about as much sense as capping profits for companies. Torts are as much a market as any other product or service and when the government messes with it a whole host of unintended consequences inevitably follow.

10/11/2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger TAPayne said...

tort reform for medical malpractice?there is absolutely no need for such.what is needed is to stop the practice of credentialing people without the proper level of intellectual and academic capacity as medical professionals as social engineering projects ie Goals 2000 project.if a medical student needs the second two years of medical school (clinical studies)in order to raise a grade point average to "C" due to poor performance in the first two (academic studies)this person should NOT receive a medical degree. A "C" average may be sufficient for some professions, but not for any medical profession and absolutely not to receice an M.D.this simple correction in practices with show a huge drop in medical malpractice cases over time as the credentialed professionals are phased out
you also might consider that other forms of suits such as product liability and such would decrease if corporations were more interested in what their products will do once diseminated,rather than if they will make more off of the sales than they project they will pay in awards, so if you remove these awards or limit them it will be easier for these companies to figure this into their products and have even less consideration of the harm they do as even if the number of suits goes up they will still be able to maintain profitability, so look at who wants this reform and their hidden agenda
never answer an unanswered question with an unquestioned answer

10/18/2006 3:10 PM  

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