Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

Welcome to Tort Victim Tragedies.

Each week I will highlight the case of an injured person who was (or likely will be) denied full justice because of changes made to state law by the national anti-civil justice movement (aka the "tort reform" movement).

Unknown to most Americans, their right and their ability to access the courts are under assault from what is truly a mass movement by business interests to shield themselves from liability for their misconduct.

This "tort reform" movement frames its agenda as reasonable reform geared to protect corporations from what they describe as frivolous lawsuits which drive up the cost of business, and ostensibly hurt the state's economy.

In most of my posts, I will be addressing the fallacies of the anti-civil justice movement arguments. However, every Tuesday, I will do something unique and perhaps unprecedented.

One of the strengths of the anti-civil justice movement is its ability to put the spotlight on specific ludicrous sounding lawsuits in order to characterize the entire civil justice system as "out of control."

As I've described before in my previous post "Why You Should be Able to Sue McDonald's if You Spill Coffee on Yourself," and as I will continue to describe, often these characterizations distort and re-tell critical aspects of these cases which would otherwise support a finding that they were not frivolous.

One organization has a representative list of said spotlights.  

This constant media barrage of outrageous lawsuits has shaped the public opinion against the very civil justice system which protects us.

As a response to this anti-civil justice media barrage, each week I will highlight the other side of this coin: the real victims who are left without access to full justice because of the effects of the laws pushed through the state legislatures by the anti-civil justice movement.

Please join us each week to read incredibly sobering stories regarding the effects of the anti-civil justice movement on real people's lives and families.

The second week highlights a case from Texas.

The names have been changed to protect the privacy of the victim and her family. Sadly, however, the story is true.

While in a San Antonio hospital receiving treatment for diabetes, Margaret developed a high fever and infection in her leg because health care workers neglected to remove a catheter. Doctors told her they would have to amputate her leg.

Margaret's daughter, Carol, insisted on a second opinion, but it was too late. Doctors had already amputated her mother's leg only to find the radical procedure was not necessary. Margaret lost her leg for no reason...

...The epidemic of medical malpractice has injured Margaret twice -- once when her leg was needlessly amputated and again when radical legal changes enacted at the behest of insurance industry lobbyists stacked the deck in favor of those who harmed her.

- N. Alex Winslow, Executive Director of Texas Watch

(click here for the full article)

Texas recently enacted a non-economic damage cap of $250,000 for all medical malpractice suits against individual doctors or practitioners. The legislation means that regardless of the jury's determination of the amount of compensation that should be paid to the victim for her pain and suffering for the unnecessary loss of her leg, as well as for the loss of the leg itself, the judge must reduce the reward to $250,000 (if it exceeds this amount).
For people who are not working or who are making low wages, the primary compensation that they will receive will be from non-economic damages, the very damages that are capped by the law. The imbalance most affects people like stay at home mothers, children, or retired elderly persons.

Case in point, the victim in this case was an elderly woman living in a nursing home who had no salary to speak of. As a result, aside from the medical expenses surrounding the treatment of her leg, this woman can only receive $250,000 from the responsible doctor or practitioner (unless the court grants rarely awarded puntive damages)

Imagine if this were you, and all that you got aside from payment of your additional medical expenses and compensation for your lost wages from the responsible person was $250,000?

The "tort reform" movement's aggressive agenda to limit access to the courts has real consequences for real people. Ironically, Texas is ranked by a supporter of these types of restrictions as the state with the  "best" civil justice system.

Please help resist these reforms.

To contact an organization in Texas workng on these issues, click here.

If you or your organization is interested in learning more about or working on these types of civil justice issues, please feel free to contact me at cdugger@drummajorinstitute.org.

Cyrus Dugger
Senior Fellow in Civil Justice
Drum Major Institute for Public Policy

Tags: civil justice system, tort deform, tort reform (all tags)

Comments

5 Comments

Re: Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

Thank you Cyrus for bringing focus to the "tort reform" danger.  As you may be aware -disability civil rights are under the same kind of attack from the same groups.

So tell me, when does an organization that actively encourages their members to violate the law [through neglecting to meet barrier removal obligations], tells them "wait until you are sued" - when does that organization cross the line and come under the auspices of RICO statutes?

Keep the fires burning!

by Lee 2006-08-02 09:53AM | 0 recs
Re: Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

Hi could you talk  ore about this issue?

by Cyrus Dugger 2006-08-02 11:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

Thanks for asking Cyrus,
I have more in my diary "what happened to access?"

But my question to many has been - the chamber both in California and national has been to "reform" ada lawsuts. The goal - allow business' to remain in violation; when "caught" tie the whole process up in procedure so that it pays the scofflaws to remain in violation.
The business orgs that actively tell their members to violate the law by "wait until you are sued"....
My question has been - when do these orgs cross the line and become "influence to violate existing law or statute" violators of RICO?  The business orgs have all kinds of information on how to keep food safe, best locks for hotels, how to keep sheets sanitary, etc., but not one word about how to comply with access barrier removal - except the call to "report abusive ada lawsuits."

The business member organizations should [after 16 years] be THE experts on ADA access requirements.
Frankly  - I have been calling for these offenses to transition to criminal [misdemeanor] offenses so that the access the ADA promised can become reality!
Thanks again for reading!

by Lee 2006-08-02 12:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

In 2004 I wrote a series of diaries on Tort Reform.
"Tort Reform":Truth to the Lies, Part 1: How Bob Perry Bought Texas for Karl Rove
"Tort Reform":Truth to the Lies, Part 2: Big Tobacco et al Goes National with Rove's Idea
Tort Reform: Truth to the Lies, Part 3: Health Care
Tort Reform: Truth to the Lies, Part 4: Debate 2 and Fixing Health Care
"Tort Reform": Truth to the Lies, Part 5: Small Business

This is from last year:
All about the Money: Rove, DeLay, conservative judges, SBLfB

I think there should be a lot more talk about the lies behind tort reform and who really benefits from it.  There are lots of those who are supposedly for tort reform but who have benefitted from large settlements in the past.  That hypocrisy is also important to expose.  I would be willing to work with you on this issue.

by Mike Pridmore 2006-08-02 12:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Tort Victim Tragedies: Second Edition - Texas

I wanted to also commend you for fighting to bring balance back to personal injury.  So many persons hurt by tort reform became impaired or disabled due to their injuries - and under tort reform, the business' walk away rich - medicaid becomes the primary payer-with the taxpayer footing the long term bill for dangerous or injurious practices in the workplace.

And the injured join the ranks of the disenfranchised -disabled; with unequal and inaccessible public accommodations facing them at every turn.

Keep up the goodfight!

by Lee 2006-08-03 06:35PM | 0 recs

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