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ED Quality News: Texas Approves Prop. 12 - Tort Reform   


In a close vote yesterday, Texans approved Proposition 12, a constitutional amendment that protects that state's tort reform legislation from judicial reversal. The amendment gave the Legislature the constitutional authority to set limits on damages in medical malpractice and other lawsuits. This has important ramifications for emergency physicians and emergency departments state-wide.

According to the Houston Chronicle, Prop. 12 "would remove a likely legal challenge to the constitutionality of a recently enacted civil justice law capping noneconomic damages for pain and suffering in medical malpractice lawsuits. It also would clear the way for the Legislature in future sessions to limit damages in other types of lawsuits."

"Proposition 12 represented an epic struggle between doctors and plaintiffs' lawyers. More than $13 million was spent on advertising. Most of the $7 million spent in opposition to the measure came from wealthy personal injury trial lawyers."

Governor Rick Perry said, "...today Texans have taken an important step toward protecting both the practice of medicine and Texans' access to quality health care."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stated, "The people of Texas have voted to limit frivolous lawsuits, and families will now have greater access to affordable health care." 

State Rep. Joe Nixon, R-Houston, who sponsored Prop. 12, said, "The Legislature went to work for the citizens of the state of Texas to ensure adequate access for health care. It looks like right now that the citizens have supported our efforts on their behalf."

Pain and Suffering Caps:

Injured patients may still collect unlimited real or economic damages, which includes all lost past, present and future wages and medical costs. However, the amendment caps the subjective noneconomic damages at a maximum of $750,000 for pain and suffering, emotional distress and loss of consortium. Only $250,000 of the noneconomic damages could come from physicians, $250,000 from a hospital or nursing home and $250,000 if a second facility is involved.

Premium Relief:

The state's largest medical malpractice insurer, Texas Medical Liability Trust, promised to reduce rates 12% in January, 2004 if the amendment passed.

Link to article in the Houston Chronicle

Link to Press Release from the YES on 12 Committee (pdf file)

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