The Downside of the Texas Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages

Arguing in favor of tort reform, a recent New York Times article noted the influx of doctors into Texas after medical malpractice damages were capped in 2003. However, in a recent blog post, New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz, begs to differ with the Times' claim that, during the same timeframe, disciplinary actions against physicians had only risen 8%.

Turkewitz quotes the following statistic directly from the article: "Since 2003, investigations of doctors have gone up 40 percent, patient complaints have gone up 25 percent, and disciplinary actions about 8 percent." (citing Jill Wiggins, a Texas Medical Board spokeswoman).

But as Turkewitz points out, the Board's own website contradicts this claim, instead showing that disciplinary actions increased from 187 in 2002 to 335 in 2006. Mathematically, this represents an increase of 79% (Turkewitz surmises that the "8% error" resulted from a comparison between 2006 and 2005, when 304 actions were commenced).

The obvious conclusion is that capping medical malpractice damages has a downside in terms of the quality of care – as Turkewitz puts it, "Texas is clearly getting more doctors. They just might not be the ones you want."