Texas medical malpractice claims are governed by specific and complex laws that don’t apply to other types of personal injury lawsuits. Whether an injury claim is subject to those laws can have a significant impact on how the suit will proceed and how much in damages may be recovered
A recent decision by the Texas Supreme Court shows why and how the distinction between health care liability claims and personal injury lawsuits is so important.
The case of Reddic v. East Texas Medical Center involved an injury claim filed by a visitor who slipped and fell in a hospital lobby. The plaintiff’s claim was based on a premises liability theory, which is the same theory that would be used for a slip and fall that happened in a restaurant, grocery store, or any other business establishment. The fact that the fall was in a hospital was incidental and of no consequence, according to the plaintiff.
“Health Care Liability Claims” v. Premises Liability Claims
Not so, argued the hospital. The fact that the injury occurred in a health care facility was important because the claim constituted a “health care liability claim” (“HCLC”) that should be subject to the requirements and limitations of the Texas Medical Liability Act (the “Act”).
Under the Act, which is focused on medical malpractice claims, an HCLC is defined as:
“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.”
Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.001(a)(13)
Whether the plaintiff’s claim in Reddic was subject to the Act was important for a couple of reasons. One, the Act places limitations and caps on the amount of damages that can be obtained for an HCLC. Two, one of the requirements of the Act, which primarily covers medical malpractice claims, is that a plaintiff must obtain the opinion and report of a medical expert either before or within 120 days of filling suit. Since the plaintiff did obtain such a report, the suit should be dismissed, the hospital argued.
In its October decision, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that the fact that the injury occurred in a hospital did not in and of itself make the lawsuit seeking compensation a “health care liability claim” subject to the Act. While the court agreed that “floor care in an area frequented by those seeking or receiving health care is related to the provision of health care… the Act requires that for a claim to be an HCLC, it must have more of a relationship to the provision of health care than that it arises from an occurrence inside a hospital.”
To the extent that this decision limits the ability of hospitals, physicians, or other health care providers and facilities to hide behind the protections of the Medical Liability Act, it is a positive development for those who have been injured by the same types of negligent conduct that would support the recovery for damages in any other non-health care setting.
At Greening Law, P.C. in Dallas, we have extensive experience representing and obtaining compensation for individuals who have been injured in slip and fall accidents as well as medical malpractice actions. If you or a loved one has been injured in a slip and fall or because of negligently maintained property or due to medical malpractice, please give attorney Robert Greening a call at (972) 934-8900 or fill out our online form. We are ready to help you.