A U.S. magistrate judge has concluded that the cap the Texas Legislature set on non-economic damages in health care liability suits is constitutional. In his Sept. 13 “Report and Recommendation,” U.S. Magistrate Judge Charles Everingham IV of the Eastern District of Texas in Marshall concluded that the defendant health care providers and the state, which intervened in Watson, et al. v. Hortman, et al., are entitled to summary judgment that the Medical Malpractice and Tort Reform Act of 2003 does not violate the plaintiffs’ constitutional right of access to the courts and the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs in Watson, described as medical malpractice victims, filed their class action suit in February 2008. In their Dec. 11, 2009, second amended complaint, the plaintiffs asked the court for a declaration that the non-economic damage cap set by H.B. 4, the 2003 tort reform bill, violates the “Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, by taking private property not for public use and without just compensation; and the right of access to the courts for redress as guaranteed by the Privileges or Immunities, Equal Protection, and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, as well as the Petition Clause of the First Amendment.”