Justia Texas Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice
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In this healthcare liability action, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant's motion for directed verdict and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), holding that the trial court gave an erroneous charge that instructed the jury on the incorrect law applicable in the case.Plaintiffs filed this action against their obstretician, claiming that Defendant failed to exercise ordinary care when delivering Plaintiffs' baby and that Defendant's negligence proximately caused the baby's brachial plexus injury. At the close of the evidence Defendant moved for a directed verdict, arguing that there was legally insufficient evidence of willful and wanton negligence as required under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 74.153. The trial court denied the motion. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Plaintiffs, finding that Defendant was negligent under an ordinary, and not a willful and wanton, negligence standard. The trial court denied Defendant's motion for JNOV. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the court erred in charging the jury because the jury should have considered whether section 74.153's standard of willful and wanton negligence applied in this case where it was contested whether Defendant provided emergency medical care to the mother and the baby. View "Glenn v. Leal" on Justia Law

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In this health care liability action, the Supreme Court conditionally granted Claimant's petition for writ of mandamus and ordered the court of appeals to vacate its order ruling that Claimant was not permitted to depose a health care provider before serving him with an expert report, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the Medical Liability Act categorically prohibited Claimant from deposing or obtaining documents from that provider.Claimant sued one health care provider, served an expert report meeting the requirements of the Act on that provider, and then sought to depose Dr. Jeffrey Sandate, another provider involved in the underlying incident and a nonparty in the action. The court of appeals ruled that Claimant may not depose Dr. Sandate before serving him with an expert report under the Act. The Supreme Court ordered the court of appeals to vacate its order, holding that the Act did not insulate Dr. Sandate from being deposed or producing documents in this case. View "In re Comanche Turner" 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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The Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court affirming the order of the Texas Medical Board imposing disciplinary sanctions under the Medical Practice Act against a physician for violating a state law that requires medical certifications for death certificates to be completed electronically, holding that disciplinary action was not authorized.On appeal, the physician argued that the Medical Practice Act does not authorize disciplinary action for failing to complete a medical certification for a death certificate electronically. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that a physician's act of completing the medical certification for a death certificate manually rather than by using the approved electronic practice does not authorize the Board to take disciplinary action against a person for such conduct. View "Aleman v. Texas Medical Board" 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 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 reversed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a health care claimant’s expert report was insufficient as to causation with respect to one of her providers and dismissing her claims against that provider, holding that the expert report adequately addressed both causation and the standard of care.The health care claimant in this case sued a health care provider and two of its physicians for negligence. Only the claimant’s claim against the provider for vicarious liability based on the alleged negligence of its employee nurses was at issue in this appeal. The provider filed a motion to dismiss the claimant’s claims challenging the claimant’s expert report. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The court of appeals reversed and dismissed the claims against the provider. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that the report sufficiently identified the applicable standard of care and linked the provider’s nurses’ alleged breaches with the claimant’s injuries. View "Abshire v. Christus Health Southeast Texas" on Justia Law

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In this medical-malpractice case stemming from the death of Shannon McCoy, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that judgment was properly entered in favor of Plaintiff as to Dr. Debra Gunn’s negligence in this case and that Obstetrical and Gynecological Associates, P.A. (OGA) was vicariously liable for Dr. Gunn’s negligence.The Court further held (1) there was legally sufficient evidence of causation; (2) the trial court erred in excluding deposition testimony of Defendants’ expert witness regarding future medical expenses, but the error was harmless; (3) the medical billing affidavits providing proof of past medical expenses were proper; (4) the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct the jury on unavoidable accident; (5) OGA’s indemnity claim against Dr. Gunn was properly asserted post-verdict; and (6) Shannon’s death on the eve of the court of appeals’ decision did not create a windfall for Plaintiff. View "Gunn v. McCoy" on Justia Law

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At issue in this healthcare-liability case was whether the jury was properly allowed to consider, in deciding negligence, what a physician (Defendant) did or did not tell his patient (Plaintiff) about an inexperienced resident’s involvement in performing Plaintiff’s surgery, even though Plaintiff did not seek recovery on that basis.A jury found Defendant’s negligence caused Plaintiff’s injuries. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial, holding (1) the trial court’s refusal to instruct the jury not to consider Defendant’s failure to disclose the resident’s level of involvement was error, and the error was not harmless; and (2) Plaintiff’s expert was “practicing medicine” at the time of trial and thus qualified to testify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the court of appeals correctly found that the charge error required a new trial. View "Benge v. Williams" on Justia Law

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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