Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Health Law
In re Xerox Corp.
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
Nazari v. State
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
In re North Cypress Medical Center Operating Co.
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
SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc. v. Nelson
The limitations on mental anguish damages do not require a contractual relationship between the plaintiff and defendant before mental anguish damages can be recovered for mishandling a corpse.Cody Nelson sued SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc. for negligence in proceeding with the cremation of his mother’s body without his authorization, claiming mental anguish damages for having been denied the opportunity to pay his last respects to his mother. The siblings of Nelson’s mother signed an authorization for SCI to arrange an expedited cremation during Nelson’s absence. The trial court rendered judgment for SCI, concluding that because SCI did not contract with Nelson, it could not be liable to him for mental anguish damages. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that SCI and Nelson had a special relationships without being in contractual privity. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Texas common law requires a special relationship, and not necessarily a contractual one, as the basis for mental anguish damages when the defendant had negligently mishandled a corpse. View "SCI Texas Funeral Services, Inc. v. Nelson" on Justia Law
Baty v. Futrell
The trial court abused its discretion in concluding that Plaintiff’s expert report did not represent a good-faith effort to meet the requirements of the Texas Medical Liability Act and in dismissing Plaintiff’s health care liability claims.Plaintiff sued Defendants, a certified registered nurse anesthetist and his employer, asserting medical malpractice claims relating to the nurse’s administration before cataract surgery. The trial court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, finding that Plaintiff’s expert report was deficient with respect to the elements of standards of care, breach of standards of care, and causation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the report satisfied the good faith effort the Act requires. View "Baty v. Futrell" on Justia Law
Miller v. JSC Lake Highlands Operations, LP
The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Defendants’ motions to dismiss this health care liability action when it read several experts’ reports together to satisfy the requirement of the Texas Medical Liability Act that Plaintiffs serve each defendant with an “adequate” expert report or face dismissal of their claim. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.351(1).Plaintiff filed health care liability claims against three defendants, alleging that their respective negligence led to her mother’s death. Plaintiff filed four separate expert reports to satisfy the Act’s requirements. Each defendant moved to dismiss Plaintiff’s claims for failure to serve adequate reports. The trial court denied the motions to dismiss. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that Plaintiff’s four reports - even when read together - did not constitute a good-faith effort to show that Plaintiff’s claims had merit. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Plaintiff’s four expert reports provided enough information for the trial court to conclude that they constituted a good-faith effort. View "Miller v. JSC Lake Highlands Operations, LP" on Justia Law
Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists v. Texas Medical Ass’n
In 1994, the Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists (the Therapists Board) adopted a rule listing specific therapeutic services that licensed marriage and family therapists (MFTs) may provide. As relevant to this appeal, the rule permits MFTs to provide “diagnostic assessment…to help individuals identify their emotional, mental, and behavioral problems.” In 2008, the Texas Medical Association filed suit against the Board seeking a declaratory judgment that the rule was invalid because it grants MFTs authority that the Texas Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists Act does not grant and that the Texas Medical Practice Act reserves for medical licensees. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the Medical Association. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Texas Occupations Code authorizes MFTs to provide diagnostic assessments, and therefore, the diagnostic-assessment rule is valid. View "Texas State Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists v. Texas Medical Ass’n" on Justia Law
In re Guardianship of Ryan Keith Tonner
In 2003, the county court appointed Beatriz Burton guardian of the person and estate of Ryan Keith Tonner, who was incapacitated due to an intellectual disability. Burton died in 2007. In 2012, guardianship was transferred to Lubbock County. One month later, Disability Rights Texas filed an application on Tonner’s behalf to fully or partially restore his capacity. The trial court dismissed the application, concluding that Tonner’s capacity was not restored, and that although his named guardian had died, her powers and duties “will remain unchanged.” The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed on other grounds, holding that the lower courts could not determine whether Tonner’s capacity should be partly restored without appointing a successor guardian, which Tonner did not seek. View "In re Guardianship of Ryan Keith Tonner" on Justia Law
Posted in: Health Law
In re Christus Santa Rosa Health Sys.
In 2012, Dr. Franklin performed surgery on Baird to remove the left lobe of her thyroid. Franklin removed thymus gland tissue instead of thyroid tissue. Baird needed another surgery. Christus Santa Rosa Health System convened a medical peer review committee to review Franklin’s performance. The committee did not recommend any action. Baird sued Franklin, who moved to designate Christus as a responsible third party, alleging that Christus had failed to inform him that the cryostat machine, a critical piece of equipment, was unavailable. Franklin served a request for production on Christus, asking for documents from Christus’s medical peer review file. Christus argued that documents were privileged under the medical peer review committee privilege, Tex. Occ. Code 160.007(a). The court ordered Christus to produce the documents under a protective order, requiring that the documents be disclosed only to Franklin and his attorney. The Supreme Court of Texas granted mandamus. The trial court abused its discretion in ordering the documents produced without proper in camera inspection to determine whether the exception in section 160.007(d) applies. That exception reads: If a medical peer review committee takes action that could result in censure, suspension, restriction, limitation, revocation, or denial of membership or privileges in a health care entity, the affected physician shall be provided a written copy of the recommendation of the medical peer review committee and a copy of the final decision, including a statement of the basis for the decision. View "In re Christus Santa Rosa Health Sys." on Justia Law
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Forte
The Texas Optometry Act prohibits commercial retailers of ophthalmic goods from attempting to control the practice of optometry; authorizes the Optometry Board and the Attorney General to sue a violator for a civil penalty; and provides that “[a] person injured as a result of a violation . . . is entitled to the remedies. In 1992, Wal-Mart opened “Vision Centers” in its Texas retail stores, selling ophthalmic goods. Wal-Mart leased office space to optometrists. A typical lease required the optometrist to keep the office open at least 45 hours per week or pay liquidated damages. In 1995, the Board advised Wal-Mart that the requirement violated the Act. Wal-Mart dropped the requirement and changed its lease form, allowing the optometrist to insert hours of operation. In 1998, the Board opined that any commercial lease referencing an optometrist’s hours violated the Act; in 2003, the Board notified Wal-Mart that it violated the Act by informing optometrists that customers were requesting longer hours. Optometrists sued, alleging that during lease negotiations, Wal-Mart indicated what hours they should include in the lease and that they were pressured to work longer hours. They did not claim actual harm. A jury awarded civil penalties and attorney fees. The Fifth Circuit certified the question of whether such civil penalties, when sought by a private person, are exemplary damages limited by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 41. The Texas Supreme Court responded in the affirmative, noting that “the certified questions assume, perhaps incorrectly, that the Act authorizes recovery of civil penalties by a private person, rather than only by the Board or the Attorney General.” View "Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Forte" on Justia Law