Texas Medical Malpractice Reform Bill Passes Out Of The House

Author:Ms Susan Feigin Harris
Profession:Vinson & Elkins L.L.P.

After almost two weeks of vehement partisan bickering, both HB 4 and HJR 3 passed out of the Texas House of Representatives. HB 4 contained broad tort reform measures that included a cap on non-economic damages in medical liability cases of $250,000. Before passing the House, the bill had received 153 amendments and survived several points of order. Hospitals that provide charity care would have liability limited at $500,000, except in cases of intentional, willful or wanton negligence, conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others. With respect to emergency care, the bill would require that certain jury instructions be provided that include circumstances surrounding the emergency and related medical care.

Moreover, the standard of proof in cases involving emergency medical care provides that a claim for medical liability must prove that the treatment departed from accepted standards only if shown by clear and convincing evidence that the physician or health care provider did not use the degree of care and skill that is reasonably expected of an ordinarily prudent physician or health care provider in the same or similar circumstances. All relevant provisions are contained in Article 10 of the bill. In addition, HJR 3 authorizes the constitutional amendment to limit non-economic damages on medical liability cases to $250,000. The amendment requires that an election be held on September 13, 2003, to approve the amendment. The voters shall be asked to vote for or against the proposition "The constitutional amendment concerning civil lawsuits against doctors and health care providers, and other actions, authorizing the legislature to determine limitations on non-economic damages." HB 4 is set for hearing today in the Senate State Affairs Committee and HJR 3 has yet to be assigned to...

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