Just when you think you’ve heard it all—about Texas tort reform, of course—there’s still more to think about.
Tort reform burdens for patients, generally
To recap on Texas medical malpractice tort reform generally, in 2003, the legislature and governor enacted new tort reform measures designed to dry up patient safety litigation. Among many other things, the Texas Medical Liability Act, Health & Safety Code Chapter 74:
• Requires plaintiffs to produce medical expert reports very early in the litigation. If a plaintiff misses the deadline or there’s a final ruling that the reports are insufficient, the case gets dismissed and the plaintiff must pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees.
• Imposes a higher standard of proof, called willful and wanton negligence, for medical malpractice cases involving emergency medical care in a hospital emergency room or obstetrical suite.
• Creates caps on non-economic damages in the amount of $250,000 for a hospital (up to $500,000 if multiple hospitals or facilities are sued) and $250,000 for all doctors or individual healthcare providers (whether one or 10 are named as defendants). Non-economic damages include mental anguish, pain and suffering, disfigurement, and other similar elements that can’t concretely be tied to a specific dollar figure.
Another cap for some nonprofit hospitals
Nonprofit hospitals have some of the swankiest facilities around. If you have any doubt, go to Fannin Street in Houston’s Texas Medical Center. Walk through the palatial hospital lobbies on the nonprofit side of the street and compare then with the for-profit hospitals on the other side of Fannin.
I once had a case when an attorney for one of the largest nonprofit healthcare systems in Texas had the audacity to tell my client—a mother of a child who sustained a permanent brain injury because of the hospital’s negligence—that any dollar paid to their family would take away from their charitable care. I later did research and found out that this nonprofit healthcare system had over a dozen administrators were earning over $1 million a year. Nonprofit certainly didn’t mean that those employees weren’t pulling in some hefty profits of their own!
Back in the tort reform heyday of 2003, the nonprofit hospital lobbyists convinced their friends at the capital in Austin that they needed an extra helping of tort reform. Voilà, meet Texas Health & Safety Code Section 311.0456, which gives an extra non-economic damages cap, maxing out at $100,000, to any hospital that’s certified by the Texas Department of State Health Services to provide charity care totaling at least 8% of its net patient revenue in the most recent fiscal year.
The Department issues certifications that become effective on 12/31 each year, last for one year, and the $100,000 non-economic damages cap applies to causes of action that accrue (generally the date of injury) while the certification is active.
Nonprofit hospitals certified for 12/31/2019–12/31/2020
The Texas Department of State Health Services has certified the following nonprofit hospitals, who benefit from the statutory $100,000 non-economic damages cap for this time period:
(1) Seton Healthcare System (Travis County only)
• Ascension Seton Medical Center in Travis County
• Ascension Seton Northwest in Travis County
• Ascension Seton Shoal Creek in Travis County
• Ascension Seton Southwest in Travis County
• Dell Children's Medical Center in Travis County
• Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas in Travis County
(2) Ascension Providence in McLennan County
(3) Ascension Seton Edgar B Davis in Caldwell County
(4) Ascension Seton Hays in Hays County
(5) Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Llano in Llano County
(6) Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Brenham in Washington County
(7) Baylor Scott & White Medical Center - Marble Falls in Burnet County
(8) CHRISTUS Southeast Texas - Jasper Memorial in Jasper County
(9) CHRISTUS Southeast Texas - St. Elizabeth & St. Mary in Jefferson County
(1) CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Alice in Jim Wells County
(11) CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Beeville in Bee County
(12) CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi Shoreline in Nueces County (Multi locations: CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi South in Nueces County and CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi in Nueces County)
(13) CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Kleberg in Kleberg County
14. United Regional Health Care System in Wichita County
If you’ve been seriously injured because of hospital or medical malpractice in Texas, it’s important to hire an attorney who understands the Lone Star State’s convoluted tort reform and other health care liability laws. Contact an experienced, top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.