I’ve written in the past about personal injury verdicts in Texas. A recent Jury Verdict Research found that the average verdict in a personal injury lawsuit in Texas is $826,892. But Texas is a particular example of the differences between the median and average jury verdicts: the median award is just $12,281. You can always drive a truck between the difference between average jury verdicts and median jury verdicts. But in Texas, this gap would not covered by a fleet of trucks.
The average is also distorted by huge verdicts that are not collectible. A Texas jury awarded $118 million – the highest verdict included in this Texas jury verdict study – to the widow of a worker who died in Phillips Petroleum Co. explosion but the Texas cap on punitive damages reduced that award to under $12 million.
Sample Settlements and Verdicts in Texas
Texas has taken some harsh steps to curb malpractice cases to the point where few were filed there in 2013. These caps limit pain and suffering awards health care negligence cases to $250,000 against doctors, $250,000 per-facility but capped at $500,000. So there is a $750,000 overall cap and that is only in cases where the stars line up where you have multiple defendants. It is a tough road. Motor vehicle crash claims make up a larger portion of the verdicts.
This is a list of recent verdicts in the Lone Star state. Can you use these to help you figure out what the compensation in your case should be? Yes and no. They are helpful to be sure, and that is why I’m putting these up. But take them with a grain of salt. Every case is different and sometimes there are facts not even listed in these summaries that make all of the difference in these cases.
- March 2013, Texas: $50,000 Verdict: Plaintiff underwent a total hysterectomy when a remnant of the left ovary was left inside. Six months following the surgery, the plaintiff began experiencing severe lower abdominal pain. She visited her primary care doctor and a hospital emergency room in Dallas for her pain where she was given a CT scan and ultrasound. The results showed the remnant and she was advised to visit the physician who performed the hysterectomy. The physician did not believe the mass was the cause of the plaintiff’s pain and referred her to a gastroenterologist for further workup. The plaintiff did not feel the physician was responsive to her complaints and sought a second opinion. The second surgeon chose to conduct a surgery to remove the remnant the following month. The plaintiff sued her original physician for negligence and medical malpractice. The claim? The doctor messed up by not removing the entire ovary and not fixing the problem sooner after the complaints, ultrasound, and CT scan. The defendant argued that it was reasonable to ignore the mass as the cause of the plaintiff’s pain as the mass was small. That’s a tough argument to make. The jury agreed but didn’t think the injuries were all that severe and awarded the plaintiff a payout of $50,000 for pain and suffering.
- March 2013: $35,250 Verdict: Plaintiffs were traveling east on Spring Cypress Road towards the Harris County post office. Plaintiffs slowed their vehicle and turned on their signal to turn into the post office parking lot. Upon slowing down, the plaintiffs were struck in the right rear by the defendant. The plaintiff’s vehicle rolled over onto its side from the impact and struck another car that was exiting the parking lot. The plaintiff passenger had to be extricated from the vehicle and suffered serious injuries to her neck while the plaintiff driver sustained tears in the ligaments in his right knee. Both plaintiffs’ injuries required surgical repair. The plaintiffs sued the defendant for negligence in failing to control the speed of his vehicle, failing to make a timely application of the brakes and for failing to take evasive action to avoid a collision. The defendant denied the allegations and argued the plaintiffs made a sudden stop to avoid missing the turn into the parking lot which caused him to make a sudden and unexpected stop. The sudden stop defense rarely works and it did not here. But the jury only awarded $35,250 which is a pretty low verdict in a two surgery case.
- April 2013: $46,250 Settlement: Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was traveling on Beltway 8 in Houston. The driver lost control while turning off an entrance ramp and collided with an embankment. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to West Houston Medical center and was treated for soft-tissue injuries of the back and neck and a rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. The plaintiff was given additional treatment with physical therapy and chiropractic treatment for several months after the accident. She also underwent an arthroscopic surgery on her shoulder. Plaintiff alleged the driver was negligent in operating the vehicle. The parties settled before trial for $46,250.
- April 2013: $13,076 Verdict: Plaintiff was traveling southbound Wilcrest Drive at its intersection with Sela in Houston. While proceeding through the intersection, the plaintiff was struck by the defendant who was traveling eastbound on Sela. The plaintiff’s vehicle spun 90 degrees, was struck a second time by a vehicle traveling northbound. After the collision, the plaintiff was diagnosed with disc protrusions, back sprain and strain and myofascitis. Plaintiff sued the defendant for negligence in failing to pay proper attention, failing to yield the right of way, and failing to obey traffic devices. The defense denied the allegations and maintained the plaintiff only suffered minor soft tissue injuries from the accident. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded him $13,076 for the defendant’s negligence.
- June 2013: $350,279 Verdict: Plaintiff was in a disabled car off the outside shoulder of Highway 205 North near Rockwall. Police had already arrived to assist with the disabled vehicle when a southbound 18-wheeler crossed the road and struck another car parked on the shoulder. The impact caused the car to push into the plaintiff’s car. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to a local emergency room and was treated for a herniated cervical disc. Shortly after the crash she began physical therapy and chiropractic treatment. After consulting with a neurologist, she underwent an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion. She also began treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder the month following the accident. The plaintiff sued the driver for losing control of the truck as well as the company who employed the driver for negligent entrustment and gross negligence. Plaintiff’s counsel argued the company was grossly negligent for entrusting a driver who could not read or write, had very low intelligence and lacked proper license endorsement to operate the large vehicle. Plaintiff’s counsel claimed the driver wrongly claimed the plaintiff exited the vehicle before impact and that the police “altered the video” from the officer’s dash camera to make the accident look more severe. The defense stipulated to the driver’s negligence and defended the case arguing the victim’s pain symptoms resulted from degenerative conditions. He stated the plaintiff’s pain relief did not result from surgery but from post-operative immobilization. Plaintiff’s neurologist testified the cervical injury was acute and related to the accident and the injuries were not pre-existing or degenerative. The jury found in favor for the plaintiff and awarded her $350,279.40 against both defendants.
- June 2013: $142,144 Verdict: Plaintiff, an off-duty police officer, was working as a security guard in a Mesquite movie theater parking lot. The defendant was parked in a crosswalk and was requested by the plaintiff to move his vehicle and turn down his stereo. When the defendant refused, the plaintiff ordered him to exit the vehicle. Plaintiff claimed the defendant refused to exit the vehicle began to reach between the seats. The plaintiff reached into the car to stop him and the defendant pulled forward and drove away at high speed. The plaintiff was dragged by the vehicle until he fell to the pavement. Plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the hospital and was treated for broken ribs, an orbit fracture, a torn rotator cuff, multiple cuts and bruises (including a gash to his forehead) and neck and back sprains and strains. Plaintiff underwent shoulder surgery and physical therapy for his injuries. The plaintiff sued the driver, who went to prison as a result of the incident, for failing to park legally and failure to yield. He also sued the owner of the vehicle for negligently entrusting her vehicle to an unlicensed and reckless driver. The jury found both the driver and the owner negligent and awarded the plaintiff $142,144.
- June 2013: $4,510,000 Verdict: Plaintiff’s decedent, 57, underwent heart surgery at a hospital in Port Arthur after experiencing a heart attack the previous month. After being discharged, she returned 4 days later to the emergency room complaining of chest pains. Emergency room logs showed there were multiple attempts made to page a nurse to assist the decedent before she was eventually placed in the waiting room and was left unattended. The decedent died shortly after that. Plaintiff, the decedent’s husband, sued the hospital, the surgeon and his practice for medical malpractice. Plaintiff’s counsel argued the surgeon failed to properly read an EKG test that was taken two months prior to the surgery. He claimed the surgeon failed to properly diagnose her condition which resulted in his wife going into cardiac arrest. Plaintiff’s counsel argued that although the decedent was displaying symptoms of cardiac arrest, she was left in the waiting room unattended for 10 to 20 minutes, and failed to provide timely treatment. The jury found the surgeon 25% liable and the hospital 75% liable. They awarded the plaintiff $4,510,000. But this is not a real number because of the cap on damages.
- June 2012: $330,000 Settlement: Plaintiff’s minor son was complaining of coughing along with an overall feeling of being very ill. The plaintiff took her son to the emergency room of the defendant hospital where the nurse recorded the complaints and admitted him into a room where a physician conducted a physical examination. The physician ordered laboratory tests, including a white blood cell count, but did not order a chest X-ray. The plaintiff’s son was diagnosed with a viral syndrome and discharged with no antibiotics. Plaintiff’s son’s condition seemed to worsen overnight and was brought back to the emergency room the following morning. A second emergency room physician performed a physical examination and ordered laboratory tests and a chest X-ray. The tests confirmed the plaintiff’s son had pneumonia and after seeing his condition deteriorate, they determined he needed to be intubated to assist with respiration. Plaintiff’s son’s temperature increased to 111.2 degrees, resulting in the facility packing him in ice to try to reduce his body temperature. The hospital chose to transfer the son via helicopter to a children’s hospital. Upon arriving at the children’s hospital, the plaintiff’s son was unconscious, had no pulse and was breathing only with medical assistance. He was transferred to the ICU where he was treated for severe septic shock. The plaintiff’s son remained in the ICU for many weeks. After being discharged, he required follow-up care and physical and occupational therapy. The impacts of the septic shock included injuries to his brain, lungs, kidneys and skin. Plaintiff sued the hospital for failure to provide appropriate medical examinations upon his first arrival. She alleged the defendant failed to appropriately treat her son and failed to transfer him to another hospital. The defendant denied Plaintiff’s allegations. The case settled before trial for $330,000.
- August 2013: $17,267 Verdict: Plaintiff was driving on North Frontage Road in Brownsville. He approached an intersection that was directed by a traffic light as well as a right turn lane with a yield sign. Plaintiff allegedly stopped at the yield sign, waiting to make a right turn, and was rear-ended by the defendant. The plaintiff went to a chiropractic clinic on the day of the accident. There, he was diagnosed with neck and back sprains and strains. Shortly after, he switched to a second chiropractor where he had been previously treated for prior injuries. While visiting the second chiropractic clinic he was diagnosed with a spinal fracture. Plaintiff underwent a laminectomy for his spine and attended up to 60 chiropractic sessions. Let me tell you, that is a lot of chiro treatments no matter how severe and injury is. Plaintiff sued the defendant for driver inattention, failure to control her speed and maintain a proper lookout, failure to yield the right of way and failure to turn to avoid a collision. The defense argued the plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing and unrelated to the accident. They noted the plaintiff had three separate incidents where plaintiff hurt his neck or back. Juries can’t help but take note of these. They also noted the impact was very minor as the defendant’s car sustained no damage and the plaintiff’s estimated damage report was $320. Juries really include this in their damages equation even though it does not correlate well to the extent and scope of plaintiff’s pain. An orthopedic surgery expert for the defense opined the plaintiff’s injuries only needed 10 chiropractic visits as opposed to the plaintiff’s 60. The jury found the defendant 100% negligent and awarded the plaintiff $17,267 for past medical bills only.
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