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Texas Supreme Court Issues Decision on Medical Malpractice Claim in Emergency Setting

The Texas Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning what plaintiffs must prove in order to establish a claim of medical negligence in emergency medical care settings.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, a baby was born at a hospital in Denton, Texas. The mother was induced at 39 weeks, and while the baby was being born, the obstetrician used forceps to deliver the baby’s head, but the baby’s shoulder became stuck. The doctor tried different maneuvers but eventually reached into the birth canal and pulled on the baby’s arm, dislodging his shoulder. The baby was delivered, but suffered injuries to the nerves running through his shoulder.

The plaintiffs filed a medical malpractice claim against the doctor alleging that he negligently maneuvered the baby’s body while he was being born, resulting in the baby’s shoulder becoming dislodged. The doctor argued that a provision of emergency medical care applied in this case, and that the plaintiffs had to prove he acted with willful and wanton negligence.

Section 74.153 of Texas Medical Liability Act

Under section 74.153 of the Texas Medical Liability Act, a medical malpractice claimant must prove that the defendant health care provider breached the applicable standard of care with “willful and wanton negligence.” This provision applies if the claim arises from providing emergency medical care “in a hospital emergency department or obstetrical unit or a surgical suite immediately following the evaluation or treatment of a patient in a hospital emergency department.”

The doctor argued that provision applied because the care was provided in a hospital obstetrical unit. The family claimed that the provision did not apply because, although it was provided in a hospital obstetrical unit, it was required to be done “immediately following the evaluation or treatment of a patient in a hospital emergency department.” The family argued that statements made by lawmakers in the process of passing the law showed that it was meant to apply only if a patient was first treated in the emergency department.

The Court’s Decision

The Texas Supreme Court looked at the text and context of the law, and determined that the doctor’s interpretation was the only reasonable interpretation because of the way the law was phrased. The court explained that its job is to focus on the language used in a statute, and the legislature should not enact unambiguous statutes. When a statute is ambiguous, it is the legislature’s responsibility to correct its errors or omissions through an amendment. Therefore, the court held that the plaintiffs must show the doctor acted with willful and wanton negligence.

Contact a San Antonio Personal Injury Lawyer

If you believe you or your loved one may have suffered from Texas medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. The attorneys at Carabin Shaw aggressively represent injury victims across Texas in all types of personal injury and medical malpractice cases. The law firm of Carabin Shaw was founded 25 years ago to fight for the rights of Texas accident victims and has over 200 years of combined experience in personal injury law. We stand ready to help our clients find solutions to the challenges that arise after a serious accident. Call us at 1-800-862-1260 or use our online form to set up a free consultation.

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