Columbia Hospital Corp. v. Moore – Case Brief Summary (Texas)

In Columbia Hospital Corp. v. Moore, 43 S.W.3d 553 (Tex. App.--Houston 1st Dist. 2001), modified on other grounds, 92 S.W.3d 470 (Tex. 2002), the court of appeals was faced with this comparative negligence situation in the context of joint and several liability.

In Columbia Hospital, the jury found that all three defendants were negligent and assessed responsibility at 60% for the hospital, 30% for one doctor, and 10% for the other doctor. Id. at 555.

On appeal, the hospital argued that the trial court erred by using the hospital's joint and several liability to award damages in excess of the single damages cap. Id. at 562.

In essence, because the hospital was jointly and severally liable for the doctors' negligence, under the judgment, the hospital was liable for an amount in excess of the damages cap.

In considering whether the damages cap should only apply once in the context of joint and several liability, the court of appeals emphasized that section 11.02(a) "states unambiguously that liability of 'the' health care provider 'shall' be limited to the cap." Id. at 563.

And, the court reasoned that this plain reading of statute comported with the MLIIA's purpose "to 'reduce excessive frequency and severity of health care liability claims through reasonable improvements and modifications in the Texas insurance, tort, and medical practice systems,' thereby making health care and its liability insurance more affordable and available." Id. (quoting subsections 1.02(b)(1)-(2), (4)-(5) of former article 4590i).

Thus, the court reasoned that the plain language led it "to conclude that the damages cap applicable to a single defendant who is jointly and severally liable may not be multiplied by the number of culpable defendants." Id. at 566 .