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Texas Appellate Court Explains Standard for Expert Reports in Recent Medical Malpractice Case

A Texas appeals court recently issued an opinion providing guidance for Texas medical malpractice claimants on the requirements for expert reports submitted in accordance with the Texas Medical Liability Act.

According to the plaintiff, she went to the emergency room at a hospital in Southeast Texas in 2012 complaining of chest and back pain. The plaintiff went to the hospital six times over the next few weeks complaining of continued pain, as well as shortness of breath, shoulder pain, neck pain, weakness in her legs and difficulty walking, and loss of bowel and bladder control. It was not until she was transferred to another hospital that she was finally diagnosed with a compression fracture in her spine, which ultimately rendered her a paraplegic.

The plaintiff sued the hospital and two hospital physicians for negligence. She alleged that the hospital failed to recognize the signs of a spinal compression fracture and did not take into account her history of osteogenesis imperfecta, which resulted in a delay of treatment and caused her paraplegia. The claimant submitted expert reports, and the hospital argued that the report failed to meet the requirements for expert reports under the Texas Medical Liability Act. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims against the hospital.

Expert Report Requirement under the Texas Medical Liability Act

The Texas Medical Liability Act requires a claimant in a medical malpractice claim to serve a written expert report upon the defendant within 120 of the defendant’s answer of being filed. The purpose behind the expert report requirement is to dismiss frivolous malpractice claims.

Under § 74.351(r)(6) of the Act, an expert report meets the requirements if it summarizes the expert’s opinions concerning the standard of care, the way in which the care provided failed to meet the standards, and the “causal relationship between the failure and the injury.” A report only needs to constitute a “good faith effort” to comply with the requirements under the Act.

The Court’s Decision

In this case, the court determined that the plaintiffs’ expert reports were sufficient as to causation and as to the standard of care with respect to the hospital. The court noted that expert reports stated that the hospital failed to properly assess the woman’s medical history and physical conditions, which allowed the spinal injury to progress to the point of paraplegia. The court found the reports adequately linked the hospital’s failure to properly document her condition, its delay in diagnosis and treatment, and the ultimate injury.

The court explained that courts should not weigh the credibility of an expert report at this early stage, but rather should determine whether the expert has explained how the defendant’s allegedly negligent conduct caused the plaintiff’s injury. Credibility, the court noted, is a matter reserved for trial. Thus, the appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision and reinstated the plaintiff’s claims against the hospital.

Contact a San Antonio Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has received medical attention that you believe failed to meet the applicable standard of care, you may be able to seek monetary compensation for your injuries through a Texas medical malpractice case. At Carabin Shaw, we know personal injury law and can evaluate the issues in even a seemingly straightforward case. The attorneys at Carabin Shaw aggressively represent individuals across Texas. Including in and around the San Antonio area. Call us today toll-free at 1-800-862-1260.

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