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Texans Vote on Constitutional Changes

They decide on 22 amendments, including one limiting medical malpractice jury awards.

September 14, 2003|From Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas voters appeared to pass an amendment to allow limits on some civil lawsuit awards in an election Saturday to decide 22 constitutional amendments.

With 92% of precincts reporting, 51% of voters cast ballots to approve the measure and about 49% were against it.

The proposal to cap civil lawsuit awards became a big-money battle pitting doctors against lawyers as both sides tried to rally voters to their cause.

With only the 22 proposed amendments at stake Saturday, Texas Secretary of State Geoffrey S. Connor had predicted the turnout would be only about 9% of about 12 million registered voters.

But as votes streamed in Saturday night, he said turnout could reach about 10%.

The lawsuit amendment, Proposition 12, would set a $750,000 cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and would empower lawmakers to enact caps in all types of lawsuits beginning in 2005. Awards against individual doctors would be limited to $250,000.

Doctors and business groups argued it would stop frivolous lawsuits and jury verdicts they said are out of control.

Trial lawyers, consumer advocates and some anti-crime groups said the proposition would restrict the role of juries and allow negligent people or corporations to escape accountability.

Supporters and opponents of the ballot measure raised at least $13 million for the fight.

Voters overwhelmingly approved propositions that would allow home equity lines of credit and permit the refinancing of a home equity loan with a reverse mortgage.

They also approved a constitutional amendment to allow wineries to sell their products on their premises, even in "dry" counties.

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