Texas Woman Victim to Leg Pain and Tort Laws

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

Connie Spears, who hails from Texas, initially had a leg pain that doctors at Christus Santa Rosa Hospital did not seriously recognize, even though medical staff members were informed of Ms. Spears’ history of blood clots. When doctors at another hospital found a severe clot and extensive tissue damage, Ms. Spears would discover that she would not only lose both her legs, but also become unable to battle medical mistakes due to Texas’ tort reform laws.

An approved tort reform package approved by Texas lawmakers in 2003 according to the New York Times, “capped noneconomic damages that a plaintiff could receive for medical malpractice at $250,000 and set a “willful and wanton” negligence standard – interpreted as intentionally harming the patient – for emergency care. It also required plaintiffs to find a practicing or teaching physician in the same specialty as the defendant to serve as an expert witness and to demonstrate evidence of negligence before a trial. Under the strengthened rules, if plaintiffs fail to produce adequate expert reports within 120 days of filing their cases, they are liable for defendants’ legal fees.”

Although advocates of the tort package believe such restraints fend off ridiculous lawsuits aimed at health care providers, Ms. Spears’ particular case is considered incompetent in the eyes of lawyers in fear of not being able to meet Texas’ new negligence standards. “Our purpose had never been to have a procedural hurdle,” said Mike Hull, a lawyer for the pro-tort-reform Texas Alliance for Patient Access.

Justin Williams, a Corpus Christi lawyer who took the case in sympathetic, yet kind fashion said, “Her life has basically been ruined by all of this, and there was just no way I could turn her down.”

While retirement savings are dry and Ms. Spears’ husband is unemployed, fear of losing their home, more bad news reached Ms. Spears’ desk, as Ms. Spears recently learned that Mr. Williams was unable to find an expert witness who could satisfy Texas’ requirements. “How can that law be?” Ms. Spears asked. “Maybe the law was too loose before, but they went way too far the other way.” The case unfortunately, fell apart under the new expert-witness rules.

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