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Tort recovery limits deny justice to former Ms. Comiskey Park

The widower of Arlene Miller would like to file a wrongful death and medical malpractice claim for what happened to his wife, but he cannot find a lawyer who will take his case. Although he has collected all of his wife’s medical records and has done considerable research himself, but he has been told that it simply isn’t “economically feasible to pursue” the claim. In 2003, Texas legislators reformed state laws and capped non-economic damages for malpractice suits at $250,000. Jay Harvey, president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, says that, because of the high costs of litigation, this recovery cap tends denies justice to the very old and the very young and simply does not make sense. “It’s the only area of law that we have an arbitrary cap for fair compensation. It shows a lack of trust in the jury system. We will trust a jury to decide if someone will die from lethal injection, but not grant fair compensation.”

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Arlene Miller was named Ms. Comiskey Park in 1951. She was married and had two sons. In May of 2004, she was 73 years old and went to a clinic for what was supposed to be a simple procedure. They did not expect her to be at the clinic for more than a day. The report on Arlene’s procedure indicated that it was uneventful, stating, “The patient was comfortable, warm, and had no complaints in the PACU (post-anesthesia care unit).” Arlene’s husband, Richard, remembers the PACU a little differently. When he went to meet his wife in the recovery room, Arlene was crying out from the pain. This pain was so intense that she was given morphine, but even that wasn’t enough to stop her cries.

Richard was told that the procedure had irritated a nerve, but that he should simply take his wife home. Give her food and medication, and she would be fine. A few days later, Richard took his wife to a hospital near his home . Doctors there immediately airlifted her to a specialist in San Antonio. For the next few months, Richard’s wife needed the attention of several different doctors in several different cities. Eventually, she was sent to hospice care, where she was made as comfortable as possible before she died.