October 9, 2019

The Texas Eleventh Court of Appeals (“Texas Appellate Court”) held in its opinion filed on September 12, 2019 that the claim of the mother of a minor child who was accompanying her child in an ambulance and was injured when the driver fell asleep, the ambulance left the roadway, and the ambulance struck a highway barrier, was not a claim for medical negligence but rather for ordinary negligence.

The plaintiff had filed a lawsuit in which she contended that the defendant ambulance driver (1) failed to keep a proper outlook, (2) failed to turn the ambulance to avoid the collision, (3) failed to give adequate warning, (4) failed to adequately use the brakes, (5) drove at an unsafe speed, (6) failed to maintain a safe distance, (7) failed to maintain a single lane, and
(8) failed to monitor oncoming traffic.

The issue on appeal to the Texas Appellate Court was whether the plaintiff’s claims constitute health care liability claims under the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 74.351 (West 2017). If so, then the plaintiff was required to serve an expert report and curriculum vitae in accordance with Section 74.351(a) of the TMLA.

The TMLA defines a health care liability claim 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.” CIV. PRAC. & REM. § 74.001(a)(13).

The Texas Appellate Court stated, “we focus on the underlying nature of the cause of action, not the label given to the claim in the pleadings … the heart of these cases lies in the nature of the acts or omissions causing claimants’ injuries and whether the events are within the ambit of the legislated scope of the TMLA.”

In the case it was deciding, the Texas Appellate Court held: “The essence of [the plaintiff’s] negligence cause of action is not found in standards that arise from professional duties owed by Appellants as health care providers. Rather, [the plaintiff] alleged that [the defendant ambulance driver] failed to follow the rules of the road: negligent motor vehicle operation … [The plaintiff] has not asserted that [the ambulance driver] violated any safety standards arising from Appellants’ status as alleged health care providers. Although the injuries occurred in a health care setting, “the mere location of an injury in a health care facility or in a health care setting does not bring a claim based on that injury within the TMLA so that it is [a health care liability claim]” … Appellants have failed to show a substantive nexus between [the ambulance driver’s] negligent driving, the safety standards allegedly violated in this case, and the provision of health care … We hold that the essence of [the plaintiff’s] cause of action is one for ordinary negligence and is not a health care liability claim. [The plaintiff] was, thus, not required to satisfy the expert report requirements of the TMLA.”

The dissenter to the majority’s opinion stated that he “would hold that there is a substantive nexus to the provision of health care when a patient or a passenger escorting that patient is injured while being transported in an ambulance to a medical facility.”

Source Coci v. Dower, No. 11-18-00353-CV.

If you or a family member were injured due to the medical negligence of a paramedic in Texas or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a Texas medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your possible paramedic negligence claim for you, and represent you or your family member in a paramedic malpractice case, if appropriate.

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