With Rick Perry taking the lead in the Republican primary, tort reform is expected to be, again, a major campaign issue. I have long been a critic of efforts to cap damages and I have seen firsthand how these caps often lead to families being unable to secure counsel in fights with big companies. Now, Perry is claiming that his “reforms” have led to 21,000 more doctors coming to Texas. The article below shows how this claim is entirely unsupported.
At the Politics and Eggs Breakfast in Bedford, N.H., on Aug. 17, 2011, Perry claimed huge success in malpractice limits: “I’ll tell you what one of the results was. This last year, 21,000 more physicians practicing medicine in Texas because they know they can do what they love and not be sued. Some 30 counties that didn’t have an emergency room doc have one today. Counties along the Rio Grande, where women were having to travel for miles and miles outside of the county to see an ob-gyn, for prenatal care and now they have that care.”
However, the actual increase was 12,788. Moreover, the biggest drivers appears population growth: “From 2002 to 2010, the population of Texas grew by 20 percent. At the same time, the number of doctors went up 24 percent.”
The bar needs to be more proactive in dealing with the costs of limits on malpractice and other types of recovery. I once helped a student who was seeking an attorney to sue a trucking company in Kansas for a horrific accident where his fiance was killed. No attorney would touch it due to caps on recovery. It would simply be too expensive to litigate as a contingency case. The result is that families are forced to accept a couple hundred thousand dollars for the death of their loved one. It makes such people a relatively cheap cost of doing business.
As we saw in the Virginia Tech case, the university was clearly and grossly negligent. Yet, those families were limited to $100,000 each in a ridiculous cap on damages. Not only did the university avoid the full damages for its negligence, it has used the tragedy to raise a great deal of money. I continue to get calls incessantly on my phone by fundraisers from the university despite asking them to stop calling.
It is time to have a full and accurate debate on this issue, but it is not going to happen with bar groups remaining timid and passive.