Texas adopted a tort reform bill in 2003 which modified many of its medical malpractice laws. Among the changes implemented is a statutory cap on non-economic damages that apply to suits on or after September 1, 2003. Additionally, a patient who wishes to sue a hospital for the negligence of a contractor physician must establish vicarious liability to recover against the hospital.
Statutes of Limitations/Repose
A medical malpractice claim (referred to as a health care liability claim under statute) must be commenced within two years from the completion of treatment or hospitalization. If the actual date of the injury cannot be ascertained, the measurement of time is from the last date of a course of treatment. Court law established that a minor can bring a suit anytime until the age of twenty. A statute of repose bars claims filed more than 10 years after the act or omission that gives rise to the claim.
Contributory or Comparative Negligence
Texas law applies the a modified comparative negligence doctrine by which a claimant's action is barred if his "percentage of responsibility" is greater than 50 percent. If the claimant's percentage of responsibility is 50 percent or less, his or her recovery is diminished proportionate to this percentage. This rule does not apply to claims for exemplary (punitive) damages.
In Texas, a plaintiff must establish a hospital's liability based on the medical malpractice of an independent contractor. To establish ostensible agency, the plaintiff must show that:
- he or she had a reasonable belief the physician was an employee of the hospital;
- the belief arose from the hospital's affirmatively representing the physician as its employee or the hospital knowingly letting the physician hold himself out as a hospital employee; and
- he or she justifiably relied on this representation.
Texas provides the following damage caps:
- In a medical malpractice action filed on or after September 1, 2003, a plaintiff(s) request for non-economic damages based on injury or death is limited to $250,000 from all doctors and tortious individuals regardless of the number of causes of action. Additionally, non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 from each defendant hospital or other institution with a total cap of $500,000 from all institutions.
- Economic and non-economic damages for wrongful death arising from medical malpractice are limited to a total recovery of $500,000 from all defendants, including the cost of necessary medical or custodial care. This limit includes any exemplary damages. § 74.303(a).
- Absent any intentional criminal conduct on the part of the defendant(s), exemplary damages are limited to the greater of the two amounts: (a) non-economic damages up to a maximum of $750,000 plus two times economic damages, or (b) $200,000.
Getting Legal Help
If you have suffered injuries from the medical malpractice of a doctor and/or hospital in Texas, you may have a claim for economic and non-economic losses. In Texas, you must establish a hospital's vicarious liability for the malpractice of one of its doctors. Additionally, any contributory or comparative negligence on your part reduce or totally bar your damages award. Talk with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to ensure the viability of your case.