New Study Debunks Claims of Tort Reformers

Proponents of “tort reform” claim that “frivolous lawsuits” are out of control, with the latest target being medical malpractice lawsuits. In pushing for a cap on damages, these advocates have relied on a central premise: that when Texas passed such limits, thousands of doctors moved to the state. That claim has now been debunked by a new report.

Texas politicians like to cite statistics purportedly showing that doctors flocked to the state after the legislature passed a law limiting medical malpractice claims.

Texas Governor Rick Perry said that “[in the year preceding August 2011] 21,000 more physicians are practicing medicine in Texas because they know they can do what they love and not be sued.” said.

Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, decried the perceived problem of too many medical malpractice lawsuits, and touted his state’s solution, in an article in the National Review: “That’s why some states, including my home state of Texas, have enacted tort reform to limit the amount of damages that can be awarded for pain and suffering,” said Smith. “The result? More than 14,000 doctors have returned to Texas or set up new practices in the state. That means Texans pay less to have better health care and more options.”

The problem is that the claims are not true, as a new study has demonstrated.

Researchers from the University of Texas, University of Illinois, and Northwestern University recently published a paper entitled, “Does Tort Reform Affect Physician Supply? Evidence From Texas,” that debunks the claims of tort reformers.

The researchers analyzed two claims: whether there was a shortage of physicians prior to the passage of tort reform and whether there was an increase following the new law. They found no evidence of either.

“After tort reform was enacted, proponents claimed there had been a dramatic increase in physicians moving to Texas due to the improved liability climate,” the researchers said in their paper. “We find no evidence to support either claim. Physician supply was not measurably stunted prior to reform, and did not measurably improve after reform. This is true whether one looks at all patient care physicians in Texas or at high-malpractice-risk specialties.”

The authors of the study further stated that, “[t]here is no evidence that the number of physicians per capita practicing in Texas is larger than it would have been without tort reform.”

When politicians move to place limits on medical malpractice or other types of personal injury lawsuits, opponents have a clear argument: injured people deserve their day in court and full compensation for their injury. Until now, proponents of “tort reform” have been able to argue that placing caps on medical malpractice awards can attract qualified medical professionals, but it has now been completely debunked.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and Chicago personal injury attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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