Eleven Out of Ten Doctors Agree: Perry’s Shaky Math on Tort Reform

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.

Jonathan Turley

Source: Politifact

92 thoughts on “Eleven Out of Ten Doctors Agree: Perry’s Shaky Math on Tort Reform”

  1. Gene H:

    Thanks, Gene. I have also considered having liability in malpractice cases decided by judges who must also impanel an advisory jury to provide him the consensus of the community and to determine damages if the court finds liability. The complexities of these cases with their endless jargon and nuances of professional judgment make determinations of fault above all but the most educated of juries. I still favor juries making decisions on damages as this is an area within their “wheelhouse,” but determining violations of the shifting standard of care is simply beyond the education of most laypersons. That’s not a knock on them, but it’s simply unrealistic to expect them to divine the truthfulness of persons speaking on topics with which they have almost no familiarity. It’s one thing to decide who has the red light or if John had a motive to kill Suzy, but quite another to decide the proper standard of care with a problematic child birth in a shoulder dystocia case, or the differential diagnosis between Endothelial Dysfunction
    Pericarditis, Microvascular Angina, and a cardiac event. How can one decide on matters in which they have had no training and that training is crucial to their understanding of the topic? They might as well decide on the proper grammatical conjugation of Amharic verbs.

  2. Perry is probably a better debater than W. He won the debate by making Al Gore sigh.

  3. I am betting “Its All Hat” on foreign policy…which can be translated to “This Dog don’t Hunt.”…..

  4. eniobob, Perry has been debating in Texas for ten years and has never made a major mistake in a debate. He seems to know state government pretty well but his advisor, John Bolton, has a lot of work to do with him on questions regarding foreign policy. He does emit the “can-do-ness” to me as he has passed bundles of bad legislation including the sonogram bill this year. The debate will be interesting.

  5. Swarthmore mom:

    From your link.

    “Whether you like his politics or not, he emits a pheromonal can-do-ness.”

    She sure sees something I don’t see.And most of the people who are kissing his ring so to speak.Well come I think September 7th the debate will be on and then we will see if theres”more hat than cattle”

  6. NoWay:

    I am quite proudly a trial lawyer (and am not a physician) as most regulars on this blog know. There is no seret about that. I have also represented lots of physicians and understand their plight. They are not the enemy in my view; in fact they are the ally. No physician wants a hack out there harming patients. Our professions are compatible not antagonistic –unless you throw in the little matter of huge profits of both professions. The enemy is the ruthless “for profit” system that compels physicians to deny their mistakes in the name of keeping their malpractice insurance; forces them to hire their brethren as testamentary prostitutes to defend the indefensible; and the cheapening of their calling by the hucksters who simultaneously scare the hell out of them with lurid stories of runaway juries and then fleece them with outrageous premiums.

  7. ‘Moreover, after Texas insurers fought to take away patients’ rights in 2003 “reforms,” (after arguing this was the way to reduce rates) they requested rate hikes—as high as 35 percent for doctors and 65 percent for hospitals. And this naked profiteering on the part of insurance companies so enraged Texas lawmakers at the time that they threatened to institute mandatory insurance rate rollbacks if doctors didn’t get substantial cost relief. But even then, there was no significant drop in costs until the insurance market rate cycle shifted. Meanwhile, patient safety in the state is abysmal, and health care co….’



  8. Almost everything about this sob is fake… like his ‘Jobs Creation Miracle’…

    And every time I see a picture of this guy, that hair just SCREAMS “Bad toupee”…

  9. to add to the above, the ‘Markets’ have been played pretty fast and loose and working people (you know, the pillars of the Earth…) have been squeezed pretty tight. It is more than fair to say that markets do NOT use bearance or forbearance…overbearance perhaps….

  10. Gyges1, August 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm


    You mean insurance companies charge what the market can handle, not just enough to cover expenses?

    Do other businesses know they can do that?
    …”what the market can ‘handle'”… Well, you really should look at the WHOLE F’ing market if you are going to play that card….(have you seen the markets lately???????)

    From Investopedia; The bankruptcy statistics in America are alarming. The past few decades have seen a dramatic rise in the number of people that are unable to pay off their debts, and Congress has recently addressed the issue with legislation that makes it harder to qualify for this status. Following is a list of the most common causes of bankruptcy in America today.

    1. Medical Expenses

    A study done at Harvard University indicates that this is the biggest cause of bankruptcy, representing 62% of all personal bankruptcies. One of the interesting caveats of this study shows that 78% of filers had some form of health insurance, thus bucking the myth that medical bills affect only the uninsured.

  11. NoWay,

    Tell me and the rest of your world how Tort de Form has helped the general public? Please….The targeted audience that they are trying to reach has not felt the decrease as you say, please read the article…..Please, widen your simple Horizon……

    The Results of Tort Reform Legislation

    While it is clear that legislative intent in enacting tort reform is valid, the effects of medical malpractice caps are mixed. Although the articulated goal of tort reform is to reduce the need for high insurance premiums, recent research has shown that in some cases, the “reforms” have produced the opposite effect.

    According to the article, the number of medical license applications in Texas has increased 18% in the four years since the state legislature enacted the caps. Many doctors cite the friendly malpractice climate as the reason for their move to Texas. Those physicians agree that Texas laws make it easier for doctors to care for patients with complex illnesses without fear of a frivolous law suit.

    In other words, the median medical malpractice insurance premiums were actually higher in states with caps. This is contrary to the goal of the limitations on medical malpractice awards.


  12. According to
    http://www.protectconsumerjustice.org/youve-paid-3-million-to-settle-malpractice-suits-welcome-to-texas-podnah.html ,
    a Minnesota neurosurgeon moved to Texas after Minnesota’s Board of Medical Practice sanctioned him for killing a patient and paralyzing others. While his practice would be curtailed in Minnesota, he’s clear in Texas.

    “But there is no information about the nature of that disciplinary action. And the requirement for a supervising physician to monitor Konasiewicz’s surgeries and file quarterly reports is not being observed in Texas, according to the News Tribune:

    “If a doctor relocates to Texas, that state’s medical board typically adopts the disciplinary actions and sanctions imposed by a previous state, said [Hopper].

    “However, she said, as far as Texas is concerned, Konasiewicz has a clear medical license with no restrictions.”

  13. Woosty,

    Medical malpractice premiums have dropped. Ask any phyician who works in a state where tort reform has been adopted. In Texas, the average malpractice insurance rate per physician dropped 27%.

  14. Woosty,

    You mean insurance companies charge what the market can handle, not just enough to cover expenses?

    Do other businesses know they can do that?

  15. Gene,
    you hit a home run. Justice for people who have been wronged is the purpose of any tort action. Tort actions are a good incentive for corporations to do the right thing and make products safer and treat employees and customers better.

  16. not to mention the way they wriggle out of doing what they *SAY* they are there to do in the first place….

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