Texas Supreme Court Clarifies Medical Malpractice Claim Standards
Texas healthcare liability claims, also know as medical malpractice claims, are governed by the Texas Medical Liability Act, Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code Chapter 74. The Medical Liability Act imposes upon health care liability claims several procedural requirements which are unique to health care claims. Among other thing, a claimant is required to give 60 days advance notice of intent to file a claim (§74.051), which must contain an authorization for release of health care information (§74.052). In addition, once lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff must timely provide an expert report to the defendant health care providers (§74.351). These procedural requirements are potential stumbling blocks for the unwary plaintiff lawyer and failure to comply can result in dismissal of an otherwise a valid lawsuit.
The Texas Supreme Court recently decided a case which clarified what constitutes a health care liability claim (with the accompanying procedural requirements) and what does not. Galvan v. Memorial Hermann Hospital System arises from a hospital visitors slip and fall inside the hospital. Sylvia Galvan was visiting a relative and was walking from the pharmacy to the room when she slipped on water from a restroom. The hospital argued that the claim was a health care liability claim and, since Ms. Galvan failed to provide a timely expert report, asked the trial court to dismiss the action. The trial court did not agree with the hospital, but the Texas Court of Appeals dismissed the lawsuit for failure to provide an expert report. The issue considered by the Texas Supreme Court is whether or not Ms. Galvan’s claim was a health care liability claim under the Texas Medical Liability Act.
Under the Texas Medical Liability Act, a health care liability claim is:
A cause of action against a health care provider or physician 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.
In determining whether or not the Galvan cause of action claimed a departure from accepted standards of care “directly related to health care”, the Supreme Court set out 7 non-exclusive factors to be considered:
- Did the alleged negligence of the defendant occur in the course of the defendant’s performing tasks with the purpose of protecting patients from harm;
- Did the injuries occur in a place where patients might be during the time they were receiving care, so that the obligation of the provider to protect persons who require special, medical care was implicated;
- At the time of the injury was the claimant in the process of seeking or receiving health care;
- At the time of the injury was the claimant providing or assisting in providing health care;
- Is the alleged negligence based on safety standards arising from professional duties owed by the health care provider;
- If an instrumentality was involved in the defendant’s alleged negligence, was it a type used in providing health care; or
- Did the alleged negligence occur in the course of the defendant’s taking action or failing to take action necessary to comply with safety-related requirements set for health care providers by governmental or accrediting agencies?
Though the hospital argued contrary, the Court found that no substantive relationship is shown to exist between the safety standards Galvan alleges the hospital violated and the provision of health care. It reinstated Ms. Galvan’s claim against the hospital and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
Understanding the difference between health care liability claims and non health care liability claims can be critical to a claim and can make a dramatic difference in the damages that may be recovered against the hospital or other provider. At Fisher Injury Lawyers, we not only handle both type claims, we understand the arguments necessary to distinguish one from the other.
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