Senate Approves Lawsuit Reform Legislation
On Friday May 16, the Texas Senate passed House Bill 4, the omnibus lawsuit reform bill. Making sure my constituents have access to quality, affordable health care is one of my highest legislative priorities. I am confident this legislation will have positive benefits for those that I represent, as well as all the people of Texas.
The bill will now be sent back to the House of Representatives. It is likely that a conference committee of House and Senate members will review the differences between the House and Senate versions, and will then present a final bill for approval by both chambers.
The following is an excerpt from a story on the tort reform legislation taken from the "Texas Senate News." The full article can be viewed at www.senate.state.tx.us.
Legislation aimed at ending what some Senators call lawsuit abuse received the approval of the Senate today. Mount Pleasant Senator Bill Ratliff said the Senate Committee Substitute to House Bill (CSHB) 4 strikes a fair balance by providing for adequate regress for those plaintiffs with truly egregious damages and placing caps on non-economic damage awards. Ratliff, chair of the committee that heard the bill, hopes that it will drive down or stabilize insurance rates.
The State Affairs Committee held eleven hearings and heard more than 61 hours of testimony on CSHB 4 before passing its version to the full Senate. The final bill addresses class action lawsuits, settlement offers, trial venues, products liability, seat belts, medical malpractice, volunteer immunity and liability, and liability relation to asbestos claims. CSHB 4 would provide a liability limit on individual defendant awards at $250,000, $500,000 for each hospital or other health care institution, and an overall cap of $750,000 per claimant. In addition, the bill would make changes in the qualifications required of experts for reports and bring the access to patient records section in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.
The tort reform bill would also provide for a 15-year limit to the time a lawsuit may be filed for product liability and relieve non-manufacturing sellers from responsibility from harm, unless they took specific actions.
Limits would be placed on liability for school employees, fire fighters, Texas Department of Transportation employees, and non-profit hospitals that provide certain levels of charity care under CSHB 4.
Additionally, the legislation would permit the fact that a person was not wearing a seat belt to be admissible in court.
The bill passed by a 28-3 vote of the Senate.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org.