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Brooks Schuelke
Brooks Schuelke
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John Ritter — A Medical Malpractice Case Still Worth Taking

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Tomorrow, a medical malpractice trial is scheduled to start involving the death of actor John Ritter (the family has previously settled with the hospital involved). In the trial, the Ritter family is seeking an award of $67 million, an amount that the family claims Mr. Ritter would have earned for his continued acting on the show “8 Simple Rules For Dating My Teenage Daughter.”

The case is a prime example of the disparity of caps on damages. Texas law allows victims of medical malpractice to recover their economic damages (such as lost wages), but caps the amount that can be recovered for non-economic damages (mental anguish, impairment, etc). Because Mr. Ritter was a high wage earner, his claim is economically viable. And it’s the same for most other wage earners; if the victim made a decent wage before his or her death, and there is a surviving spouse or other dependent relying on those wages, then the malpractice claims may be viable. But if it was Mr. Ritter’s daughter (or his retired mother or father) that had been the victim of the same conduct, then her claim, in Texas, would have likely been limited to $250,000, and her family would have a very difficult time finding a lawyer to take her case.

And this discrimination is one of the problems with damage caps. The caps inherently say that the life of a child, or an elderly person, or a stay-at-home mom isn’t worth as much as someone that’s employed.

MSN has an interview with Mr. Ritter’s widow that discusses the case.