Tort Reform Is Just Plain Bigger in Texas


Maybe tort reform in Texas is unexpectedly bigger than thought. Or maybe it's just as big as it was supposed to be. Either way, the latest news on tort reform is that the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 has been applied in unusual ways lately, which is likely making its supporters happy - to the detriment of injured people.

As Eric Nicholson wrote on the Dallas Observer blog on March 26 ("A Cow, a Car Crash and the Absurdity of Tort Reform in Texas"), a pickup driver got into a serious wreck when six cows escaped onto the roadway. The driver and passenger were seriously injured when the driver hit the brakes and rolled the pickup. But the case now has a rather unusual defense - a defense that just might win the case - thanks to the Tort Reform Act. To wit: the owner of the cows happens to be a retired doctor, as Nicholson reports, which he feels entitles him to the law's protection.

The retired doctor is asking the court to dismiss the case because the plaintiff didn't follow the requirements of the Tort Reform Act in medical malpractice cases, which in this case was the submission of an expert report within 120 days after filing suit. In other words, the retired doctor is trying to hijack the Tort Reform Act, in a case that has nothing to do with malpractice whatsoever, simply because of his status as a retired physician.

Scary thing is, Nicholson cites other cases where this defense has worked: slip-and-falls that happened to occur in hospitals and nursing homes, as well as a case in which the employee of a psychiatric hospital was injured by a patient.

Is this justice?

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