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Dallas-With the passage of Texas’ Proposition 12, the next step is likely to be limitations of noneconomic damages in all types of civil cases, opponents of the constitutional amendment say. “I think that is the plan-to cap damages in other types of lawsuits,” said Tommy Fibich, a partner in Houston’s Fibich, Hampton, Leebron & Garth. State Representative Joe Nixon, R-Houston, author of the legislation that placed Proposition 12 on the Sept. 13 ballot, said that isn’t the case. “That was a straw argument” put forward by the opponents, said Nixon, a partner in Houston’s Phillips & Akers. “I will not vote for, support or introduce legislation that puts caps on other types of causes of action,” he said. Passage of Proposition 12, one of 22 constitutional amendments that were placed before the state’s voters, blesses the damage limits that the Texas Legislature placed on medical-liability suits as part of a sweeping “tort reform” measure passed during the regular session this year. The amendment also authorizes lawmakers to put limits on noneconomic damages in other kinds of civil suits. But while the Legislature returned to work for a third special session on congressional redistricting, damage caps won’t be on the agenda. Under Proposition 12, lawmakers can’t consider such limits until after Jan. 1, 2005. Proponents of the constitutional amendment and their political committee, Yes on 12, focused their message on the provision in Proposition 12 that authorizes caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice suits. In print and television advertising, the proponents warned that large damage awards against doctors have caused such huge increases in liability insurance premiums that some doctors have been forced to stop practicing in Texas. Although Proposition 12 also authorizes the Legislature to limit noneconomic damages in other kinds of civil causes of action, Nixon said the amendment makes it harder for the Legislature to do that because any bill that would do that must be passed by a three-fifths vote in each house. Three-fifths vote Fibich, who monitored H.B. 4 for the Texas Trial Lawyers Association during the regular session, said the legislation for Proposition 12 would have required a two-thirds vote, but that provision was changed late in the session. The three-fifths vote is a less onerous requirement that had been proposed, he said. Former Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson, treasurer of Save Texas Courts, a committee that opposed Proposition 12, said the inclusion of the three words-”and other actions”-in the amendment indicates the intent. “They put it on there for a reason,” said Hankinson, a partner in Dallas’ Hankinson & Whitaker. Nixon said the amendment makes it harder for the Legislature to pass other damage caps because any bill that would do that must be passed by a three-fifths vote in each house. Dick Trabulsi, president of Texans for Lawsuit Reform, said his group isn’t looking to limit noneconomic damages in causes of action other than medical malpractice suits. “There has never been a serious discussion within Texans for Lawsuit Reform, to date, about caps other than in medical malpractice lawsuits,” Trabulsi said. The opponents said the close vote on Proposition 12 is an indication that the people oppose capping damages in other kinds of cases. According to the Texas secretary of state’s office, Proposition 12 passed by about a 51% to 49% margin.

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