ALL HANDS ON DECK & SPLIT DECISION: Settlement Credits in Personal Injury Cases, No. 04-18-00118

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In Virlar v. Puente,  the 4th Court sitting en banc court unanimously agreed on the case’s disposition, except with regard to the issue of whether the trial court erred by failing to apply a dollar-for-dollar settlement credit to reduce one plaintiff’s recovery against two defendants based on another plaintiff’s settlement with a settling defendant.

The majority held that because the plaintiff alleged a common-law medical malpractice claim, and her damages were all economic, reducing her recovery by the settlement amount of another plaintiff’s settlement with another defendant would violate the Open Courts provision of the Texas Constitution.

The dissents would have held there was no Open Courts violation because the Legislature intended to “require[] every member of the claimant class to share in a single, but unrestricted, recovery for the underlying injury.” One dissent noted “the facts of this case reveal a punitive aspect to the statute” and “invite[d] the Texas Legislature to revisit the statute’s construction to avoid punitive consequences in tragic circumstances like the one this case raises.”

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