Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Health Law
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The Supreme Court answered questions certified to it by holding that a plasma collection center is a "public facility" under Tex. Hum. Res. Code (THRC) 121.002(5) and that a plasma collection center may reject a person with a disability without committing impermissible discrimination under THRC 121.003(a) when two conditions are met. Appellants were not allowed to donate plasma to CSL Plasma, Inc., a plasma collection center, and filed suit, alleging unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability. The district court granted summary judgment for CSL, concluding that the ADA did not apply and that a plasma collection center could not be considered a public facility under the THRC. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified questions to the Supreme Court as to whether the THRC governs plasma collection centers. The Supreme Court answered that a plasma collection center is a public facility under section 121.002(5) and that the center may reject a person with a disability without discriminating when (1) the center's rejection does not meet the THRC's definition of "discrimination" or satisfies an exception to the definition of "discrimination," and (2) the center establishes that allowing a person with a disability use of the public facility would pose a threat to the health or safety of others. View "Silguero v. CSL Plasma, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court denying Defendant hospital's plea to the jurisdiction on Plaintiff's complaint alleging personal injury and death proximately cause by a condition or use of tangible personal property, holding that Plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated both use and proximate cause. At issue was whether Defendant's use of an allegedly improper carrier agent during surgery constitutes negligent use of tangible personal property and, if so, whether sufficient evidence established that this use proximately caused the decedent's death. On appeal to the Supreme Court Defendant argued that because the carrier agent was properly administered during surgery, Plaintiffs complained only of negligent medical judgment, for which immunity was not waived. The Supreme Court affirmed the denial of Defendant's plea to the jurisdiction, holding that regardless of the manner in which the property was administered, when, as here, the claim was premised on Defendant's use of property that was improper under the circumstances and caused harm, this was sufficient to establish negligent use under the Texas Tort Claims Act. View "University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center v. McKenzie" on Justia Law

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In this guardianship proceeding, the Supreme Court denied mandamus relief, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing to disqualify counsel for the guardianship applicant due to a purported conflict of interest. Jamie Rogers, represented by Alfred Allen, filed an application for temporary guardianship of Verna Thetford's person and a management trust for her estate. Verna moved to disqualify Allen as Jamie's counsel, asserting that Allen had represented Verna and that she objected to his representation of Jamie in violation of his fiduciary duties to her. The trial court denied the motion to disqualify and appointed Jamie as temporary guardian for Verna. Verna argued before the Supreme Court that the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct required that Allen be disqualified. The Supreme Court held (1) the Rules permit such representation in limited circumstances and that a trial court's decision regarding disqualification, based on a careful, thorough consideration of the evidence, is entitled to great deference by an appellate court; and (2) there was no reason to disturb the trial court's discretion in this case. View "In re Thetford" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court's dismissal of Plaintiff's complaint with prejudice, holding that dismissal of the lawsuit was required because this falsified-medical-records claim was a health care liability claim subject to the expert-report requirements of the Texas Medical Liability Act. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.351(a). Plaintiff sued two individuals and a hospital alleging that he was indicted for aggravated assault only because the medical record of the victim of the assault had been falsified. The hospital invoked the civil-liability limitations in Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which requires the claimant to serve an adequate expert report within 120 days after the defendant's original answer has been filed. When Plaintiff did not subsequently serve an expert report, the trial court granted the hospital's motion to dismiss. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that claims involving alteration and fabrication of medical records are not healthcare liability claims and therefore do not trigger the expert report requirement of section 74.351. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff's action was a health care liability claim, and Plaintiff's failure to timely serve an expert report necessitated dismissal with prejudice. View "Scott v. Weems" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed as modified the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to dismiss this suit seeking to remove Defendant from a county hospital district board, holding that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 27.003, applied to the State’s removal action and that the State failed to establish a prima facie case for removal. Defendant argued that the removal petition should be dismissed because the State could not establish a prima facie case for removal. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed and remanded to the trial court for a determination of Defendant’s request for attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) the TCPA applies to a removal petition, and a removal petition does not constitute an “enforcement action” under the TCPA; and (2) Defendant was not entitled to dismissal of or attorney’s fees for the state’s allegation that he violated the Open Meetings Act. View "State ex rel. Best v. Harper" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the Texas Medical Liability Act’s emergency-medical-care provision, which requires claimants asserting certain medical-malpractice claims to prove “willful and wanton negligence,” applies to claims arising from emergency medical care provided in a hospital’s obstetrical unit regardless of whether the patient was first evaluated or treated in a hospital emergency department. Plaintiffs filed suit against an obstetrician, his practice group, and a hospital (collectively, Dr. Wilson) alleging that Dr. Wilson negligently performed maneuvers that dislodged their baby’s shoulder as he was born. In response, Dr. Wilson argued that because Plaintiffs’ claims arose from the provision of emergency medical care in a hospital obstetrical unit, they could only recover by proving that Dr. Wilson acted with willful and wanton negligence. The trial court agreed and granted partial summary judgment to Dr. Wilson. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Act, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.001-.507, did not require Plaintiffs to prove willful and wanton negligence. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 74.153 of the Act requires claimants to prove willful and wanton negligence when their claims arise out of the provision of emergency medical care in a hospital obstetrical unit. View "Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Denton v D.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court denied the defendant hospital’s petition for a writ of mandamus challenging a trial court’s order requiring the hospital to produce information regarding its reimbursement rates from private insurers and public payers for the services provided to the plaintiff, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in compelling production of the information. The plaintiff, who was uninsured, was treated by the hospital, which billed the plaintiff and filed a hospital lien for the cost of its services. The plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that the hospital’s charges were unreasonable and its lien invalid to the extent it exceeded a reasonable and regular rate for services rendered. The plaintiff served requests for production and interrogatories on the hospital, including information about reimbursement rates from insurers and government payers. The hospital objected to the discovery requests, but the trial court ordered the hospital to produce the information. The hospital then filed a petition for a writ of mandamus, which the court of appeals denied. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the requested reimbursement rates were relevant to whether the hospital’s charges to the uninsured plaintiff were reasonable. View "In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co., Ltd." on Justia Law

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At issue in this mandamus proceeding was whether the proportionate-responsbility scheme in Chapter 33 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code applies to a civil-remedy action under the Texas Medical Fraud Prevention Act (TMFPA). The State sued Xerox Corporation and Xerox State HealthCare, LLC (collectively, Xerox), which administered the Texas Medicaid program, for a civil remedy under the TMFPA. Xerox sought to unite the TMFPA proceedings for purposes of shifting liability to the service providers sued by the State who had directly received disputed Medicaid payments. The trial court granted the State’s motion to strike Xerox’s third-party petition seeking contribution under Chapter 33, holding Chapter 33 inapplicable to the TMFPA action. The court also denied Xerox’s motion to designate responsible third parties under Chapter 33. The Supreme Court denied Xerox’s petition for writ of mandamus, holding that Chapter 33 does not apply to a TMFPA action because (1) the statutory remedy does not constitute “damages” subject to apportionment under Chapter 33; and (2) an irreconcilable conflict exists between the proportionate-responsibility statute and the TMFPA’s mitigation and fault-allocation scheme. View "In re Xerox Corp." on Justia Law

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In this interlocutory appeal, the Supreme Court held that sovereign immunity barred the counterclaims filed by Defendants against the State and that it lacked interlocutory jurisdiction to address the trial court’s dismissal of the Defendants’ third-party claims. The State brought this enforcement action under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Act, alleging that Defendants - several dentists and their professional associations and employees - fraudulently obtained Medicaid payments for providing dental and orthodontic treatments to children. Defendants asserted counterclaims and third-party claims alleging that the State and its contractor mismanaged the payment-approval process and misled Defendants regarding the requirements imposed by the Texas Medical Program. The trial court granted the State’s plea to the jurisdiction against the counterclaims and motion to dismiss the third-party claims. Defendants filed this interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing Defendants’ counterclaims and concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the order dismissing the third-party claims. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) sovereign immunity barred the counterclaims, and (2) this Court lacked interlocutory jurisdiction to address the order dismissing the third-party claims. View "Nazari v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue was a trial court order requiring Defendant-hospital to produce information regarding its reimbursement rates from private insurers and public payers for the services it provided to Plaintiff. Plaintiff sought a declaratory judgment that Defendant’s charges were unreasonable and its hospital lien for the amount of its services was invalid to the extent it exceeded a reasonable and regular rate for services rendered. During discovery, the trial court ordered Defendant to produce information regarding the reimbursement rates at issue. Defendant filed a petition for writ of mandamus arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in ordering production of the information because the reimbursement rates were irrelevant to whether its charges to Plaintiff, who was uninsured, were reasonable. The Supreme Court denied the writ, holding that the amounts Defendant accepted as payment for services from other patients, including those covered by private insurance and government benefits, were relevant to whether the charges to Plaintiff were reasonable and were thus discoverable. View "In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co." on Justia Law