Page 13


mold problem. The church was forced to move out of its mold-infested building on 1-45 in 2000. Since then it has resided at four different temporary locations in almost as many years. The stress from the moves has whittled the congregation down by half. In order to get its claim filled, the church was forced to sue several insurance companies. The trial was scheduled for last February 2003, in Montgomery County. By that time, the lawsuit was already 10 months old. In November 2002, the insurance company defendants added Joe Nixon to their legal team. This allowed them to partake of a legislative continuance that permits trial postponements so lawmakerlawyers can concentrate on the legislative session that begins in January. The continuance is good for 30 days before a session and 30 days after. Add two special sessions on redistricting, and today the Baptists are still waiting for their day in court. Their lawyers charge that Nixon was only added to allow for more delays. The Houston state representative has refused to discuss the case with the media. But there is a good chance more of the public will become aware of the actions of Rep. Nixon. As of this writing, Prop 12 opponents are planning a campaign of both television and mail pieces rumored to prominently feature his recent entanglements. Penile Code Despite their straightfaced denials to the contrary, Republican leaders in the House and Senate chose September to hold a vote on Proposition 12 in the hope that the fewest number of voters would go to the polls. If legislators had wanted a larger turnout, they would have scheduled the vote for November. Now the improbable election of September 13 is upon us. For those not keeping score \(See “Tort Reform: How Big Business Is Pulling the Strings,” TO, April 25, select group of Republican businessmen allied with a malleable doctor’s lobby spurred lawmakers to pass House Bill 4, a radical rewrite of the state’s civil justice system. Chief among its many components was a cap on how much money a jury can award for non-economic damages such as pain, suffering, or disfigurement. The Lege decided that when it comes to medical malpractice cases, the sum should be a maximum of $750,000 per family. During the session, a pre-walkout House Democratic Caucus caved and also allowed Republicans to pass a constitutional amendment codifying both the med mal cap and the Lege’s ability to impose new caps in the future. Now their constitutional amendment has come to the public for approval as Prop 12. Stripping juries of their power is an incursion on a right so basic it dates to the Magna Carta. Critics as diverse as the American Association of Retired People and the Eagle Forum believe that defanging juries will remove a vital check on doctors and corporations that helps ensure consumer safety. They question claims by backers of the measure that high insurance rates for doctors are the result of too many malpractice suits. Can a one-size-fits-all judgment be truly fair? For example, try telling a woman who shared an elevator with a piece of a partially decapitated doctor what her pain and suffering is worth. Last month, Karin Steinau watched in horror as the elevator in a downtown Houston hospital closed on Dr. Hitoshi Nikaidoh’s head and started going up leaving his body behind. Lawyers for Nikaidoh’s family made sure to file their lawsuit before HB 4 went into effect in September. They say there is evidence the elevator was poorly maintained at the time of the accident. Emergency sensors apparently malfunctioned. In other words, this was no act of God. Someone is to blame. 9/12/03 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11