Tort reform has been leading to ridiculous results all over the country. Medical malpractice patients have found themselves unable to recover the damages to which they should be entitled. In states like Texas, personal injury plaintiffs have found claims that have no business being classified as medical malpractice classified as such so as to deny them their rights to recovery as well. Finally one Texas attorney decided to push the envelope and as a result the Texas courts have put at least some sort of limit on the later of these practices.
Texas Has Been Classifying All Negligence that Happens to Be the Fault of Doctors as Medical Malpractice
Back in 2003 the Texas legislature passed a tort reform law that severely limited the rights of medical malpractice victims. In the years since that law passed the attorneys who represent insurance companies and hospitals have convinced Texas courts to apply these strict limits to just about any act of negligence committed by a doctor or in a medical setting, even if it has nothing to do with traditional medical malpractice. For example, the Houston Chronicle reports that the Texas Supreme Court has recently applied the medical malpractice rules to three cases that have nothing to do with traditional medical malpractice, including:
—a case where a patient slipped on a wet bathroom floor —a case where a patient was bitten by a brown recluse spider —a case where a nursing home resident was sexually assaulted by another resident.
None of these cases had anything to do with the doctor-patient relationship or the special duties that medical care providers owe to patients. Instead they were all simple tort cases that could have happened just as easily in non-medical settings. But because they happened in medical settings the courts applied the draconian medical malpractice rules to the case.
Retired Doctor Sued for Medical Malpractice because his Cow was in the Road
In response to Texas’ treating all cases that are even tangentially related to doctors or medical settings as medical malpractice cases, one lawyer decided to see just how far the courts would be willing to go. He is defending a case where a retired doctor’s cow wandered onto a rural road and caused a car crash that seriously injured a man in the car. So, the man sued the retired doctor. The doctor’s lawyer is now arguing that the case should be dismissed because it is really a case of medical malpractice.
The Houston Chronicle reports that in this case, the court was not willing to go that far and ruled that these facts do not constitute medical malpractice. The doctor’s attorney is appealing this judge’s decision and hopes to take the case all the way to the Texas Supreme Court. While this may eventually lead the legislature to change the law or the courts to modify their interpretation of the law, this tactic is not without a victim. The unfortunate thing is that the man who was injured in the accident will have to wait for all of this legal wrangling that really has nothing to do with him and everything to do with wrong-headed tort reform legislation to be completed before he is able to obtain any sort of recovery for his very serious injuries.
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