Articles Posted in Texas Supreme Court

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Reginald Lane, individually and as personal representative of Decedent's estate, filed suit under the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA) against anesthesiologist Michael Zanchi, alleging negligence. Zanchi was not served with process until September 16. In the meantime, Lane mailed the expert report to Zanchi on August 19. Zanchi filed a motion to dismiss for failure to timely serve an expert report as required by Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.351(a), arguing that he was not a "party" to Lane's suit until he was served with process. The trial court denied the motion, and the court of appeals affirmed, holding that one is a "party" if so named in a pleading, whether or not one has been served with process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the term "party" in section 74.351(a) means one named in a lawsuit; (2) therefore, a claimant asserting a health care liability claim complies with section 74.351(a) by serving the report on a defendant who has not yet been served with process; and (3) "service" of an expert report on such a defendant need not comport with the service requirements of Tex. R. Civ. P. 106 that apply specifically to service of citation. View "Zanchi v. Lane" on Justia Law

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Employee was a psychiatric nurse employed by Employer, a health care provider. Employee was injured at work while restraining a psychiatric patient. Employee filed a negligence action against Employer, seeking damages for personal injuries. Employer moved to dismiss Employee's suit, asserting that the suit alleged a health care liability claim (HCLC) under the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA) and that Employee's failure to serve Employer with an expert report within the TMLA's 120-day deadline mandated dismissal of his suit. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Employee's claim that Employer provided improper security of the psychiatric patient and inadequate safety for Employee was an HCLC under the TMLA, and therefore, Employee was required to serve an expert report within 120 days of filing suit. Remanded with instructions to dismiss Employee's complaint. View "Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. v. Palit" on Justia Law

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Respondents filed this health care liability action against Petitioner. The trial court awarded Respondents $9 million in actual damages and $3 million in punitive damages. The court of appeals reversed the punitive damages award. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment affirmance of the actual damages award, finding that Petitioner's liability was statutorily capped. On remand, the trial court vacated the original judgment and awarded Respondents actual damages capped according to the relevant statute plus postjudgment interest calculated from the date of the remand judgment. The court of appeals reversed the remand judgment, holding that the trial court erred by vacating its original judgment and by calculating the postjudgment interest from the date of the remand judgment rather than the date of the original judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the court of appeals had jurisdiction to review the trial court's remand judgment; (2) postjudgment interest must be calculated from the date of the original judgment; and (3) the trial court's order vacating the original judgment was error, but it was not reversible error. Remanded. View "Phillips v. Bramlett" on Justia Law

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The family of a nursing home patient filed this action against the nursing home for, inter alia, medical negligence, negligence per se, breach of contract, and retaliation. Plaintiffs asserted the retaliation claim under the Texas Health & Safety Code, which creates a cause of action against a nursing facility that retaliates against a resident or family member who makes a complaint concerning the facility. Defendants moved to dismiss all of the claims pursuant to the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA) because the expert report was deficient. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiffs' claims except for the retaliation claim, concluding that the claim was not a health care liability claim (HCLC) for which the TMLA requires a supporting expert report. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment with respect to the retaliation claim, holding that because the retaliation claim was based on the same factual allegations on which one of Plaintiffs' HCLCs was based, the claim should have been dismissed for lack of a sufficient expert report. View "PM Management-Trinity NC, LLC v. Kumets" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, as next friends of their daughter (Daughter) sued Hospital for injuries sustained by Daughter following her premature birth. One hundred and sixteen days after filing their original petition, Plaintiffs nonsuited their claim. Plaintiffs later filed a new lawsuit against Hospital and other health care providers and served an expert report on Hospital. Hospital objected to the report as untimely and moved to dismiss the claim against it. The trial court overruled the objection and denied the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that Plaintiffs timely served their expert report. At issue on appeal was the Texas Medical Liability Act's (TMLA) expert-report requirement, which requires a claimant to serve an expert report on health care providers against whom the claim is asserted 120 days after the original petition is filed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a claimant's nonsuit of a health care liability claim before the expiration of the 120-day period tolls the expert-report period until suit is refiled. View "CHCA Woman's Hosp., LP v. Lidji" on Justia Law

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In an earlier suit, fourteen Texas hospitals filed a declaratory relief action against the Texas Health and Human Services Commission and its Executive Commissioner (collectively HHSC), challenging a cutoff date used by HHSC to cap the collection of data used to calculate Medicaid reimbursement rates for inpatient services. The Supreme Court declared the cutoff-date rule invalid and enjoined its enforcement. The Court further remanded the cause to the district court, where the hospitals argued that the Court's judgment should apply retroactively to provide them a basis to reopen their earlier administrative appeals and to seek reimbursement for the underpayment of past Medicaid claims calculated under the invalid cutoff-date rule. The district court found in favor of the hospitals. The court of appeals reversed, determining that the injunction should only operate prospectively. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly concluded that the Court's earlier opinion and judgment did not purport to reopen past rate determinations or closed administrative proceedings. View "El Paso County Hosp. Dist. v. Tex. Health & Human Servs." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff sued the hospital (Hospital) where she gave birth to a newborn and the two doctors who assisted in delivery, alleging that Hospital was liable for injuries to the newborn because of its own direct negligence as well as its vicarious liability for the negligence of the two doctors. Plaintiff served Hospital with three expert reports, all of which Hospital objected to. The trial court determined that when the three reports were read in concert, Plaintiff had met the requirements of the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). The court of appeals concluded Plaintiff's reports were adequate as to the vicarious liability claim but remanded to the trial court to consider granting an extension to cure other deficiencies. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the court of appeals' judgment as to the adequacy of the reports regarding the claim that Hospital was vicariously liable for the doctors' actions; and (2) did not address whether the court of appeals erred by remanding the case for the trial court to consider granting an extension of time for Plaintiff to cure deficiencies, as the expert reports satisfied the TMLA requirements as to one theory of liability alleged against Hospital. View "TTHR Ltd P'ship v. Moreno" on Justia Law

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Several hospitals (Hospitals) sued Aetna, Inc. and Aetna Health, Inc. (collectively Aetna) for allegedly violating the Prompt Pay Statute. Aetna provided a Medicare plan (Plan) through an HMO called NYLCare. It delegated the administration of its Plan to North American Medical Management of Texas (NAMM), a third-party administrator. IPA Management Services (Management Services) provided medical services to Plan enrollees. Management Services entered into contracts with the Hospitals to secure hospital services for the Plan employees. Aetna was not a party to these contracts. The Hospitals submitted hospital bills to NAMM for payment. After NAMM and Management Services became insolvent, Aetna de-delegated NAMM and assumed responsibility for processing and paying claims. However, Aetna instructed the Hospitals to continue submitting their bills to NAMM. The Hospitals argued that Aetna was liable for NAMM's failure to timely pay claims and was responsible for $13 million in outstanding bills. The trial court granted summary judgment for Aetna. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that because the Hospitals entered into contracts with Management Services and not with Aetna directly, the Hospitals had no viable prompt-pay claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the lack of privity between the Hospitals and Aetna precluded the Hospitals' suit. View "Christus Health Gulf Coast v. Aetna, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that while she was a patient at a hospital, a hospital nurse, who was temporarily placed with the hospital by a staffing service, assaulted her. Plaintiff sued under the Texas Medical Liability Act, asserting that the staffing service was directly and vicariously liable for the nurse's conduct. The staffing service filed a motion to dismiss because the patient's expert reports did not specify how the service was directly negligent. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that because the reports supported a theory of vicarious liability against the staffing service, the lack of a description supporting direct liability was not fatal to Plaintiff's maintaining her cause of action. The Supreme Court affirmed but on different grounds, holding (1) an expert report that adequately addresses at least one pleaded liability theory satisfies the statutory requirements, and the trial court must not dismiss in such a case; and (2) Plaintiff demonstrated that at least one of her alleged theories, vicarious liability, had expert support, and therefore, the trial court correctly denied the motion to dismiss. View "Certified EMS, Inc. v. Potts" on Justia Law

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Doctor examined Patient to determine whether she met the criteria for involuntary hospitalization for psychiatric care. Doctor decided she did not and released her. Three days later Patient committed suicide. Patient's sons (Plaintiffs) sued Doctor for negligence in failing to involuntarily hospitalize Plaintiff. The jury found against Doctor and awarded damages of $200,000. The trial court rendered judgment on the verdict, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment in favor of Doctor, holding that because there was no evidence that Patient's involuntary hospitalization by Doctor probably would have prevented her death, the evidence was legally insufficient to support the finding that his negligence proximately caused her death. View "Rodriguez-Escobar v. Goss" on Justia Law