May 7, 2020

The Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals (“Texas Appellate Court”), in its Majority Opinion dated March 26, 2020, held that the plaintiff’s claim that the defendant hospital was negligent as a result of her fall due to a liquid on the floor was “an alleged departure from accepted standards of patient safety and is a health care liability claim under chapter 74. Therefore, [the plaintiff] was required to comply with section 74.351(a)’s expert report requirements. Because she failed to serve an expert report, the trial court erred in denying UTMB’s motion to dismiss.”

Underlying Facts

The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (“UTMB”) admitted the plaintiff for a colonoscopy. The plaintiff alleged that while she walking from the prep room to the procedure area, she slipped on a liquid believed to be water. The liquid was in an area not open to the general public. The plaintiff suffered injuries as a result of her fall. The plaintiff sued UTMB, alleging a premises liability claim for negligence.

UTMB filed a motion to dismiss and for attorney’s fees, arguing that the plaintiff’s claim was a health care liability claim governed by Civil Practice and Remedies Code chapter 74, which requires, among other things, a plaintiff to serve an expert report on a defendant health care provider not later than 120 days after the defendant files its answer. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.351(a). Because the plaintiff did not serve an expert report, UTMB argued that the trial court must dismiss the plaintiff’s claim with prejudice and award reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred. After conducting a hearing, the trial court denied UTMB’s motion to dismiss and UTMB appealed.

Texas Appellate Court Opinion

The Texas Appellate Court held: “we conclude that a substantive nexus exists between the accepted safety standards at issue and [the plaintiff’s] fall. Here, [the plaintiff] was a patient seeking special medical care (a colonoscopy). As [the plaintiff] admitted, she had “been prepared”—i.e., UTMB had commenced providing medical care—and was walking to the procedure room to undergo the colonoscopy when she slipped and fell. If the merits were reached, it may be relevant to inform the trier of fact of hospital procedures on safely transferring a patient during the course or provision of medical treatment … Moreover, the water on which she slipped was in an area not open to the general public. UTMB, therefore, was responsible for [the plaintiff’s] safety as a patient, at a minimum … federal regulations require the hospital to meet certain safety standards, including requirements that the “overall hospital environment . . . be developed and maintained in such a manner that the safety and well-being of patients are assured,” that diagnostic facilities “be located for the safety of patients,” and that hospital facilities “be maintained to ensure an acceptable level of safety and quality.” 42 C.F.R. § 482.41 (a), (d)(1), (d)(2) … [the plaintiff’s] assertion that UTMB failed to make its premises safe for its patients is an allegation that it did not comport with the required standard of patient care, which includes protecting patients from injury on hospital premises within the context of the treatment provided … We therefore hold that [the plaintiff’s] claim is a health care liability claim, as that term is defined under chapter 74, and [the plaintiff] was required to serve on UTMB an expert report within 120 days of UTMB’s answer.”

Source University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston v. Jasckson, No. 14-18-00887-CV.

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