This result in this medical malpractice/wrongful death lawsuit demonstrates the tragedy of tort reform. Although the plaintiff (a deceased victim’s mother) received a verdict for her daughter’s wrongful death, the award was unrealistically capped. Read on; you will see why this is a complete travesty of justice.
A Forty one year old woman went to the Emergency room of her local hospital, Christus St. Mary Hospital in Port Arthur. She wasn’t feeling well and needed help. She was treated and released; within hours of her release, she died of a heart attack. She left two young children and a grieving mother behind. Her mom took over raising the children and tried to manage the overwhelming grief and anger over her daughter’s death.
The mother contacted a skilled personal injury attorney who had the requisite experience in medical malpractice and the case was pursued through the expensive and complex litigation process, eventually going all the way to a jury trial. The jury found against hospital and the attending doctor and for the woman; it awarded a combined $1.3 million in wrongful death/medical malpractice damages to her mom and the two young children.
The award sounds pretty significant at first glance; $1.3 million for the death of a daughter and mother. Would any of us give our lives or the lives of our parents for that amount of money? But, it gets worse. In Texas, where the verdict was rendered, there are limitations on the amount of money a jury or judge can award for mental anguish, pain & suffering in medical malpractice cases. The award will be limited to $250,000 per defendant. Tort reform strikes again, and this time it punishes two young children and their grandmother who must raise them.
Of course, any award will assist the family in raising two children who lost their mother. In the long-term, can this amount assist with the extra bills that two little ones generate. Will be to assist the children in the future? Should there be in this type of situation? After all, the jury in this case found that the hospital and the attending doctor committed willful or wanton negligence.
We live in a country where the framers of the constitution created three distinct branches of government: The executive (President), the legislative (Congress), and the judicial (the courts and the jury system). Tort reform unconstitutionally permits a legislature (Texas in this case) to infringe upon the purview and domain of the judicial branch and dictate how much justice a wrongful death or medical malpractice victim can receive. And, it does this with an articifial damages cap that does not permit an evaluation of actual damages and will not deter future "willful or wanton negligence". It is not just unconstitutional, it is unjust, unfair and just plain wrong.
In a case like this where the waiting time seems to stretch out forever and a day, the family might have taken advantage of lawsuit funding. This funding, contingent upon the outcome of the case, might have assisted with the extra expense burden of child care along with other vital household bills and expenses.
Lawsuit funding is ideal for cases where a plaintiff needs a financial boost to help get through the long and drawn out litigation process. In this case, that would have meant all the way through a trial, jury verdict, and potential appeals. Without such an option for funding, desperate plaintiffs would be faced with have to consider settlement, too early, for too little. Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company, would like to know what you think of this verdict and the actual outcome forced by Texas Tort Reform.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.