There are three main reasons why it’s difficult, and sometimes impossible, to hold a Texas public hospital accountable for medical negligence. All three are related to the Texas Tort Claims Act.
• Many people miss the notice requirement. While the general statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims is two years, plaintiffs must provide public hospitals with a notice of claim letter within six months (for state hospitals) or even less (for county or city hospitals), or the claim may be barred.
• Not every type of medical malpractice claim can be pursued against a Texas public hospital. There are only two exceptions to sovereign immunity recognized by the Texas Tort Claims Act, and only one of those typically applies to medical negligence. To fall within the carve-out and be able to pursue a claim, the allegations of negligence must involve the use or condition of tangible personal property. For example, using a scalpel to mistakenly lacerate an unintended structure could be pursued because it involves tangible personal property. On the other hand, misdiagnosis, such as misinterpreting a CT scan, may not be pursued because it does not involve tangible personal property.
• Special global damages caps apply. For Texas state hospitals, the Texas Tort Claims Act cap is $250,000, which is inclusive of economic and noneconomic damages.