April 19, 2022

The plaintiff in a Texas medical malpractice case filed against a hospital alleged that had Methodist Hospitals of Dallas d/b/a Methodist Mansfield Medical Center (MMMC) had proper policies, procedures, and training in place, those policies would have dictated proper diagnostic testing that would have revealed Hubert Yate’s necrotizing pancreatitis, would have led to appropriate treatment such as closer monitoring of lung function and ICU care if needed, and would have prevented Hubert’s transfer to Kindred Hospital and death.

MMMC appealed the trial court’s order denying its motion to dismiss the health care liability claim, arguing that Yates failed to serve a report from a qualified expert that adequately addressed the standard of care, breach of that standard, and causation as to MMMC.

Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code requires claimants in health care liability cases to serve an expert report on each defendant. TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 74.351. The report must fairly summarize the expert’s opinions as of the date of the report regarding applicable standards of care, the manner in which the care rendered by the physician or health care provider failed to meet the standards, and the causal relationship between that failure and the injury, harm, or damages claimed. § 74.351(r)(6). The purpose of this requirement is to weed out frivolous malpractice claims in the early stages of litigation, not to dispose of potentially meritorious claims. Importantly, the trial court need only find that the report constitutes a ‘good faith effort’ to comply with the statutory requirements. The expert report must make a good-faith effort to explain, factually, how proximate cause is going to be proven, although the report need not use the words “proximate cause,” “foreseeability,” or “cause in fact.”

MMMC argued that the plaintiff’s expert’s qualifications as a radiologist and leader of the Radiology Department at his hospital do not demonstrate whether his experiences have involved setting policies and procedures for the entire hospital, setting policies and procedures for diagnosis, discharge, or transfer at a hospital, or running a hospital. MMC argued that the expert’s Report and CV fail to show how he is qualified to render an opinion on what an ordinarily prudent hospital would do in drafting or implementing policies for the diagnosis and transfer of patients or on hospital administration, policies, or procedures.

The Court of Appeals Fifth District of Texas at Dallas held in its Memorandum Opinion dated January 24, 2022 that the plaintiff’s expert’s “report and curriculum vitae as outlined above demonstrate he is qualified to opine about the standard of care applicable to MMMC, including policies, procedures, and protocols for diagnosing necrotizing pancreatitis. The trial court reasonably concluded that he has knowledge of accepted standards of care for health care providers for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of the illness, injury, or condition involved in the claim, and he is qualified on the basis of training or experience to offer an expert opinion regarding those accepted standards of medical care. See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 74.402(b)(2), (3). [The plaintiff’s expert] is qualified to state the standard of care for MMMC because “his report states he has experience and was involved with the type of claim at issue” … Based on the report as a whole, the trial court could have reasonably determined that the report represented an objective good faith effort to inform MMMC of the causal relationship between the breaches of the standard of care and the claimed injury, harm, or damages. Therefore, we conclude the trial court did not abuse its discretion by overruling MMMC’s objections and denying the motion to dismiss.”

Source Methodist Hospitals of Dallas d/b/a Methodist Mansfield Medical Center v. Yates, No. 05-21-00039-CV.

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