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Texas law and effect

Texas passed a “tort reform” law taking effect on September 1, 2003.[44] The act limited non-economic damages (e.g., damages for pain and suffering) in most malpractice cases to $250,000 across all healthcare providers and $250,000 for healthcare facilities, with a limit of two facilities per claim.[44][45] As of 2013, Texas was one of 31 states to cap non-economic damages.[44]

Following 2003, medical malpractice insurance rates were reduced in Texas.[44][46] However, the Center for Justice & Democracy at New York Law School reports that rate reductions are likely attributable not to tort laws, but because of broader trends, such as “political pressure, the size of prior rate hikes, and the impact of the industry’s economic cycle, causing rates to drop everywhere in the country.” States which do not impose caps on malpractice damages, such as Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Washington, have experienced reductions or stabilization in malpractice rates as well.[46]

Various studies have shown that the Texas tort-reform law has had no effect on healthcare costs or the number of physicians practicing in the state.[45] A February 2014 study found “no evidence to support” the claim that “there had been a dramatic increase in physicians moving to Texas due to the improved liability climate.”[47] The study found that this is true “for all patient care physicians in Texas, high-malpractice-risk specialties, primary care physicians, and rural physicians.[47]

Plaintiffs’ lawyers say that the Texas law prevents patients from getting compensation or damages even in cases where the patient clearly deserves it. In particular, the “willful and wanton” negligence standard for emergency care, which requires that the harm to the patient be intentional, makes it impossible to win a case where the harm is clearly negligent but not willful.