SANTA FE, N.M. (CN) - New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez pre-empted the hotly-debated question of whether state residents can sue Texas doctors for malpractice, by signing a three-year moratorium on such cases into law.
House Bill 270 states that New Mexico residents who undergo medical treatment in Texas must sign statements accepting the jurisdiction of Texas courts if they choose to bring suit against their doctors.
But the law is written as a temporary solution to the jurisdictional debate, taking effect July 1, 2016 and expiring in July 2019.
The interstate debate stems from the case of Kimberly Montano, a New Mexico resident whose health insurance referred her to Dr. Eldo Frezza in Texas for bariatric surgery. When Montano developed complications from the surgery, she filed a malpractice suit in New Mexico district court.
Texas bans lawsuits against individual state employees such as Frezza, but New Mexico law does not. Also, New Mexico places the jurisdiction of lawsuits such as Montano's in "place-of-the-wrong," which Frezza's attorneys say was in New Mexico.
They based their contention on the fact she was living there when she developed complications; but opposing counsel has challenged that idea.
Debate over Montano v. Frezza has brought into question whether New Mexicans living in the eastern part of the state will be able to receive healthcare in Texas. New Mexico
According to the governor, House Bill 270, "ensures that New Mexicans can continue to access an out-of-state physician by allowing the doctor and the patient to agree to the proper place and proper law under which civil claims can be brought."
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.