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Are Damages Limited in Texas Medical Malpractice Cases?

Posted by attorney James Girards

This Legal Guide is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice or consultation. Instead, it is intended to provide a general background of the issues presented. One should always obtain a formal consultation with an appropriately Board Certified attorney before making any decision regarding one's legal rights.

Texas has three relevant damage caps in medical malpractice cases. In a medical malpractice action filed on or after September 1, 2003, regardless of the number of causes of action asserted, non-economic damages are limited to a total of $250,000 from all doctors and other individuals. Non-economic damages are limited to $250,000 from each hospital or other institution and a total of $500,000 from all institutions. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. § 74.301. The cap applies to each "claimant," which includes everyone seeking damages due to one person's injury or death. Id.; Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. § 74.001(a)(2). A constitutional amendment authorizes this legislation. Tex. Const. art. III, § 66.

In a medical malpractice action for wrongful death, damages (both economic and non-economic) are limited to $500,000 (in 1977 dollars) plus the cost of any necessary medical or custodial care. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code. § 74.303. The predecessor of this statute was intended to apply to all medical malpractice, but was held to be unconstitutional except for causes of action created by statute, like wrongful death. Rose v. Doctors Hospital, 801 S.W.2d 841 (Tex. 1990). The cap is adjusted annually for inflation, § 74.303(b), and is now approximately $1,650,000. In actions filed on or after September 1, 2003, this limit applies to the total recovery, not separately to each defendant, and includes exemplary damages. § 74.303(a).

In any action not based on certain types of intentional criminal conduct, exemplary damages are limited to the larger of the following amounts: (a) non-economic damages (up to a maximum of $750,000) plus two times economic damages, or (b) $200,000. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 41.008.

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