Tort reform, or limitations on damages and litigation for wrongdoing, has been a heated national debate recently, and for good reason, and a story from the UK really sparked my interest.


Maria De Jesus, a pregnant 32 year old, was admitted into the hospital in 2011 to have her appendix removed. However, the doctor accidentally removed her ovary, and 19 days later, after having a miscarriage, De Jesus died.

The doctor, Yahya Al-Abed, who had only been working in the hospital for three weeks with little experience operating on pregnant women, admitted he made a mistake. Shockingly however, he claimed there was no misconduct.

He claims there was no misconduct even though he had little experience operating on pregnant women AND his senior consultant who was supposed to be present during the surgery had gone home.

Though cases in the US may not have reached this extreme, there are states here where, due to tort reform, damages in this case would have been limited to $750,000.

The story didn’t mention if De Jesus had a husband, but it did mention she had three other children.

Put yourself in the children’s shoes – their mother goes in for a procedure, and due to complete negligence of the doctor, ends up dying as a result. They’ve now lost their mom during their important childhood, and if this incident (that could have been avoided) happened here in Tennessee, there’d be a standard limit on the amount of non-economic damages, for pain and suffering, even if the jury thought more was deserved.

Here in Memphis, the Med has a $300,000 cap on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits. We’ve had cases here at Darrell Castle & Associates that would’ve well-exceeded that cap if the jury’s hands weren’t tied due to tort reform – which isn’t fair. These victims deserve the right to tell their story to a jury not held by government limitations.

When the doctors know there’s this cap on how much money they can be liable for, what’s the incentive to make sure they’re as careful as possible when their patients trust them? Sure, good morals are an incentive, but these doctors need to be held accountable for their actions, and it’s tough to do that with a known cap on damages.

“It’s good for business,” they say. But, it’s shown no real effect on doctor’s medical malpractice premiums. To me, it’s nothing but an unfair denial of the right to trial by jury.

Fortunately, there are lawyers fighting hard against tort reform. 

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