Connie Spears had to have both of her legs amputated after doctors ignored her past history of blood clots and sent her home despite her symptoms of severe leg pain. Despite what to many medical professionals appears to be a clear cut case of medical malpractice, Connie Spears finds no justice in Texas. Why? Because of laws passed in 2003:
The huge tort reform package that Texas lawmakers approved in 2003 capped noneconomic damages that a plaintiff could receive for medical malpractice at $250,000 and set a “willful and wanton” negligence standard — interpreted as intentionally harming the patient — for emergency care. It also required 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 a trial. Under the strengthened rules, if plaintiffs fail to produce adequate expert reports within 120 days of filing their cases, they are liable for defendants’ legal fees.
The creation of a “willful and wanton” standard was supposedly a mechanism to prevent frivolous lawsuits from hurting doctors who made the wrong choice in a time of crisis. Instead, it protects doctors who do anything short of purposely hurting their patients.
The real reason Texas passed the tort reform that it did had little to do with any lawsuit crisis in the medical profession. Instead, this law rewarded Republican campaign contributors and financially hurt trial lawyers, which are traditionally a group of Democratic campaign contributors.
Thanks to gerrymandering the Republican majority in Texas is not in danger of disappearing any time soon. And because of that, neither is the oppressive medical malpractice package it put into place ten years ago.