Burdensome Requirements

The New York Times had a great article on the consequences of tort reform on victims of corporate negligence.  The article uses the example of Connie Spears.  Spears arrived at a Christus Santa Rosa hospital emergency room in 2010 with severe leg pain.  She had a history of blood clots. Doctors sent her home with a far less serious misdiagnosis.  "Days later, swollen and delusional, Ms. Spears was taken by ambulance to another hospital where doctors found a severe clot and extensive tissue damage. With her life on the line, they amputated both of her legs above the knee."

Texas lawmakers placed onerous burdens on victims of negligence by 1) arbitrarily limiting noneconomic damages (including pain and suffering) that a plaintiff could receive for medical malpractice at $250,000; 2) setting a “willful and wanton” negligence standard — interpreted as intentionally harming the patient — for emergency care; 3) requiring plaintiffs to find a practicing or teaching physician in the same specialty as the defendant to serve as an expert witness and to demonstrate evidence of negligence before discovery has taken place; and 4) dismissing the case if plaintiffs fail to produce detailed expert reports within 120 days of filing their cases.

These burdensome laws obstructed Spears' ability to find a malpractice lawyer and forced a judge to order her to pay thousands of dollars to cover defendants’ legal bills.   The new expert-witness rules are sometimes impossible to comply within the time allotted despite the obvious negligence in the care provided to Spears. 

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