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Texas Supreme Court upholds strict deadline for lawsuits

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
09/07/14  5:17 PM PST
Texas Supreme Court - Austin, TX

By Chuck Lindell, American-Statesman Staff

A Texas teenager, born with severe brain damage, cannot sue her El Paso doctor and hospital over birth-related injuries because her mother waited too long to file suit, the Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The 8-1 ruling upheld a 2003 tort-reform law, known as the statute of repose, that strictly bans medical malpractice lawsuits filed more than 10 years after an injury.

Lawyers for the girl, Madeline Rodriguez, had argued that children under 18 cannot file suit in Texas and must have an adult acting on their behalf. If that parent or guardian fails to act in a child’s best interest, dismissing the lawsuit would violate the teen’s right of access to the courts as guaranteed by the Texas Constitution’s open-courts provision, they said.

The Supreme Court rejected that claim Friday, ruling that the open-courts provision applies only to those who are “diligent in bringing suit.”

The girl’s mother, Elizabeth Rivera, filed notice in 2004 that she intended to sue the doctor and hospital — two years before the statute of repose would have kicked in — but failed to file suit until 2011.

The court also rejected arguments that the law’s 10-year deadline was improperly applied to Madeline because it was passed seven years after her birth, ruling that retroactive laws can be constitutional if enacted with the intent to serve the public’s interest.

The Legislature set the deadline as part of a wide-ranging tort-reform law designed to address a “compelling public purpose” — broadening access to health care by lowering malpractice insurance premiums, said the opinion, written by Justice Eva Guzman.

Read Full Article from Statesman.com

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