The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas (“Texas Appellate Court”) held in its Memorandum Opinion filed on June 21, 2018 that the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the defendant hospital for sending armed officers to his hospital room where he was tased and shot was a health care liability claim. Because the plaintiff failed to serve a statutorily sufficient expert report showing that his claim has merit, pursuant to the Medical Liability Act (Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code), the plaintiff’s negligence claim against the hospital should have been dismissed.
Chapter 74 defines “health care liability claim” as: “a cause of action against a health care provider for treatment, lack of treatment, or other claimed departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care, which proximately results in injury to or death of a claimant, whether the claimant’s claim or cause of action sounds in tort or contract.” TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 74.001(a)(13).
Where a claim against a health care provider alleges a departure from safety standards, it is a health care liability claim if there is a substantive nexus between the safety standards allegedly violated and the provision of health care. The pivotal issue is whether the standards on which the claim is based implicate the defendant’s duties as a health care provider, including its duties to provide for patient safety. Also considered is the extent to which expert testimony from a health care professional is necessary to support the claim.
The Texas Appellate Court held: “The crux of [the plaintiff’s] claim is that the Hospital Defendants acted below the standard of care in sending to [the plaintiff’s] hospital room armed officers who were not supervised by healthcare professionals and were not adequately trained to handle mentally ill patients. [The plaintiff] argues that the Hospital Defendants should have established proper policies to protect people in the hospital. This claim asserts a cause of action against a health care provider for an alleged departure from accepted standards of safety … [the plaintiff’s] claim implicates the Hospital Defendant’s duties as health care providers, including the duty to ensure patient safety.”
The Texas Appellate Court stated, “In addition, the standard of care for how a hospital should protect and handle mental-health patients is an issue that would benefit from expert testimony … It is not within the common knowledge of the general public to determine the ability of patients in weakened conditions to protect themselves, nor whether a potential target of an attack in a health care facility should be better protected and by what means … The general public does not know how a hospital should protect mental-health patients and those around them.”
The Texas Appellate Court therefore held: “[The plaintiff’s] negligence claim is a health care liability claim as defined by Chapter 74,” but also held: “[The plaintiff’s] malicious prosecution and conspiracy claims are accordingly not health care liability claims as defined by Texas law.”
Source Iasis Healthcare Corp. and SJ Medical Center, LLC d/b/a St. Joseph Medical Center v. Alan Pean, No. 01-17-00638-CV.
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