AUSTIN (KXAN) — Our investigation into medical debt lawsuits began when an email landed in our inbox last year. The tip referenced a civil court in Williamson County with a large number of lawsuits aiming to collect unpaid medical bills.

The tip offered a good starting point, leading us to discover a Central Texas hospital – and a law firm working on its behalf – behind hundreds of those suits. We wanted to know: how were people in Central Texas being affected by these cases?

Using online court databases, we discovered almost all the hospital’s cases were filed in one court – Williamson County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2. In 2020, the hospital’s cases accounted for over 70% of all small claims lawsuits in that court, according to records provided by court administration.

We didn’t find the hospital engaged in any illegal practice or process. Under current Texas law, the hospital is within its right to sue former patients for medical debt.

Find out how we connected with people who were sued, and what’s being done in the future.

Explore the ‘Medical Debt Lawsuits’ project

Catalyst is a specialty unit within the KXAN investigative team focused on “digital-first” storytelling that aims to make a positive change in society. The unit takes a multi-platform, innovative approach to each project and rotates among various investigators.