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How Do the Elderly Fare in Medical Malpractice Litigation, Before and After Tort Reform? Evidence from Texas, 1988–2007 (WP-11-03)

Myungho Paik, Bernard Black, David Hyman, William Sage and Charles Silver

The elderly account for a disproportionate share of medical spending, but little attention has been paid to how they are treated by the medical malpractice system and to how that treatment is affected by tort reform. The researchers compare paid medical malpractice claims (other than nursing home claims) brought by elderly and nonelderly plaintiffs from 1988 to 2007. Texas adopted a strict cap on noneconomic damages and other tort reforms in 2003. During the pre-reform period, elderly paid claims per inpatient day rose from roughly 20 percent to 50 percent of the adult nonelderly rate. The elderly received less per paid claim than the adult nonelderly and were far less likely to receive large awards, but mean and median awards converged. Post-reform, there was a sharp drop in claims and payouts per claim for all ages, no evidence of further convergence, and mild evidence of post-reform divergence in claiming by the very elderly. Thus, although tort reform had a substantial effect, the authors find little evidence of a disparate impact on the elderly.

Myungho Paik, Research Associate, Northwestern University

Bernard Black, Nicholas D. Chabraja Professor of Law and Finance, and Faculty Associate, Institute for Policy Research, Northwestern University

David Hyman, Richard W. and Marie L. Corman Professor of Law and Medicine, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

William Sage, James R. Dougherty Chair for Faculty Excellence, University of Texas at Austin

Charles Silver, McDonald Endowed Chair in Civil Procedure, University of Texas at Austin

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