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Texas Slip and Fall in a Hospital

operating-room-1442366In Reyes v. Memorial Hermann Health, a plaintiff appealed from the dismissal of her personal injury claims against the defendant. The case was dismissed because she failed to timely file an expert report under section 74.351 of the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA).

The case arose when a woman slipped and fell on a liquid substance inside the defendant’s premises. There were no signs or other warnings about the unsafe flood conditions. She also claimed that the defendant knew or should have known about the hazardous condition, that it breached its duty of care, and that the breach caused her injuries. She claimed that her injuries and damages were proximately (legally) caused by the defendant’s failure to use reasonable care. She did not state specific details about why she was on the property.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that it was a health care liability claim. and she had failed to file a timely expert report. She responded that her claims weren’t health care liability claims and that she’d filed an expert report. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the plaintiff had failed to preserve the issue that her claims weren’t health care liability claims by raising them in trial court. The appellate court disagreed, noting that the plaintiff had disputed the defendant’s argument that the plaintiff’s claims were health care liability claims by noting that the case was based on a theory of premises liability and had nothing to do with health care services, aside from occurring on the premises of a health care provider. The plaintiff argued the same on appeal.

The TMLA defines a “health care liability claim” as a lawsuit against a health care provider or physician for treatment that departs from the standards for medical or health care, which legally causes injury or death to the plaintiff. Under section 74.351, a plaintiff filing a health care liability claim must serve on the defendant’s attorney one or more expert reports on or before the 120th day after the date the defendant files its original answer. Failure to file the report in a timely fashion results in dismissal with prejudice.

The appellate court explained that while the appeal was pending, the Texas Supreme Court resolved a split among courts of appeals about whether a claimed departure from accepted standards of safety by a medical provider must be related to the provision of health care in order to be considered a health care liability case. The Court ruled that there must be a substantive connection between the supposedly violated safety standards and the provision of health care. The pivotal issue is whether the defendant’s obligations as a health care provider are implicated.

The appellate court noted that the claim was based on safety standards. Two factors were relevant:  (1) whether the negligence happened while the defendant was performing tasks in order to protect the patient from harm, and (2) whether the injuries happened in a place where patients might be while receiving medical treatment, such that the provider’s obligation to protect those who require special medical care was triggered.

The court concluded that there was no substantial link between the violated safety standards and providing health care. The alleged negligence—spilling water—did not happen while performing tasks in order to protect patients or in a place where patients received care. It happened in the heart failure unit, but there was no evidence it happened where patients would be while getting treated. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and asked the trial court to conduct further proceedings.

If you’re hurt in a slip and fall on somebody else’s property, the experienced San Antonio personal injury attorneys at Carabin & Shaw may be able to help you. Call our office for more information at 1-800-862-1260.

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