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No. 13-0439
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LEZLEA ROSS v. ST. LUKE’S EPISCOPAL HOSPITAL

Oral argument was held on November 5, 2014. The Court issued an opinion resolving the case on May 1, 2015. File Closed

In the news...

Tracking 1 article about this case.

May 1, 2015

A slip-and-fall in a hospital is not a health-care claim; two new grants [May 1, 2015]

from SCOTXblog

The article also mentions:
  • J&D TOWING, LLC v. AMERICAN ALTERNATIVE INSURANCE CORPORATION
  • KINGSAIRE, INC. D/B/A KINGS AIRE, INC. v. JORGE MELENDEZ
  • TEXAS WEST OAKS HOSPITAL, LP AND TEXAS HOSPITAL HOLDINGS, LLC v. FREDERICK WILLIAMS
  • The Court has issued opinions:

    Opinions

    May 1, 2015

    Johnson
    Hecht
    Green
    Willett
    Guzman
    Lehrmann
    Boyd
    Devine

    Justice Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court. PDF

    Lehrmann
    Devine

    Justice Lehrmann delivered a concurring opinion, in which Justice Devine joined. PDF

     

    Court of Appeals

    Appellate District:14th Court of Appeals
    Outcome Below:Affirmed
    COA Docket No.:14-12-00885-CV
    Opinion Author:Honorable Sharon Sue Mccally

    Trial Court

    Trial Court:215th District Court
    County:Harris
    Trial Judge:Honorable Steven E. Kirkland
    Trial Docket:2010-75291

    Entries on SCOTX Orders Lists

    Docket Entries

    Date Event Outcome  
    2015-08-11 Case Stored  
      This case was waiting for a possible rehearing motion between June 11, 2015 and August 11, 2015.  
    2015-06-11 Mandate issued  
    2015-05-01 Concurring Opinion issued.   Issued
    2015-05-01 Court approved judgment sent to attorneys of record Issued
    2015-05-01 Opinion issued   Court of Appeals' judgment reversed; cause remanded to trial court
      This case was awaiting the Court's decision after oral argument between November 24, 2014 and May 1, 2015.  
    2014-11-24 Amicus Curiae Brief received  
    2014-11-05 Oral argument  
    2014-10-20 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
    2014-09-08 Oral Argument Submission Form from Attorney received  
      This case was waiting for oral argument between June 27, 2014 and September 8, 2014.  
    2014-06-27 Petition for Review disposed Filing granted
    2014-06-27 Case set for oral argument   Case set for oral argument
    2014-06-27 Petition for Review granted
    2014-06-19 Reply Brief (Petitioner)  
    2014-05-20 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2014-05-20 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2014-05-05 Brief on the Merits (Respondent)  
    2014-04-10 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2014-04-10 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2014-03-24 Brief on the Merits (Petitioner)  
    2014-03-20 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2014-03-20 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2014-02-19 Motion for Extension of Time disposed.   Filing granted
    2014-02-18 Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief filed  
    2014-01-21 Record Requested in Petition for Review
    2014-01-21 Case Record Filed  
    2014-01-17 Brief on the Merits Requested  
    2014-01-15 Letter Filed  
    2013-12-03 Motion to Extend Time to File Reply filed  
    2013-12-03 MET to file reply disposed of   Filing granted
    2013-12-03 Reply to Response (Petitioner)  
    2013-11-12 Response to Petition (Respondent)  
    2013-10-16 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response  
    2013-10-16 Motion for Extension of Time to File Response disposed   Filing granted
    2013-09-20 Supreme Court of Texas Requested Response  
    2013-08-20 Case forwarded to Court
    2013-07-17 Petition for Review (Petitioner)  
    2013-06-17 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review disposed   Filing granted
    2013-06-17 Phone call from Clerk's Office  
    2013-06-17 Motion for Extension of Time to File Petition for Review filed  

    Parties

    Party Counsel Role
    St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital
    Mrs. Elizabeth Dale Burrus
    Mr. Charles Creighton Carr II
    Mr. Gregory Alan Schlak
    Ms. Lauren Nelson
    Ms. Marsha A. Bradley
    Respondent
    Ross, Lezlea
    Mr. Harold Kenneth 'Ken' Tummel
    Mr. Sean Michael Reagan
    Petitioner

    Amicus Curiae

    Amicus Curiae Counsel
    The Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA)
    Mr. Peter M. Kelly
    Mr. Michael G. Guajardo
     

    A slip-and-fall in a hospital does not qualify as a “health care liability” claim

    A visitor to a hospital slipped and fell in the lobby. When she sued, the hospital moved to dismiss on the ground that she had failed to timely submit an expert report as would be required for a health-care liability claim.

    The trial court agreed, dismissing the claim. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that under TEXAS WEST OAKS HOSPITAL, LP AND TEXAS HOSPITAL HOLDINGS, LLC v. FREDERICK WILLIAMS, No. 10-0603 there need not be a connection between the safety standard in question and the actual provision of health care.

    The Texas Supreme Court granted review and, now, reverses, holding that:

    for a safety standards-based claim to be an HCLC there must be a substantive nexus between the safety standards allegedly violated and the provision of health care. And that nexus must be more than a "but for” relationship. That is, the fact that Ross, a visitor and not a patient, would not have been injured but for her falling inside the hospital is not a sufficient relationship .... The pivotal issue in a safety standards-based claim is whether the standards on which the claim is based implicate the defendant’s duties as a health care provider, including its duties to provide for patient safety.

    The Court rooted this holding in doctrines of statutory construction that look ot the overall structure of the law ("the purpose of the statute, the context of the language at issue"). It noted, in particular, that the reading urged by the hospital would result in a situation where defendants had "a special procedural advantage [in all suits] in the guise of requiring plaintiffs to file expert reports." The Court declined to read the statute as conferring benefits based on the identity of the defendant, rather than the nature of the duty. ("We do not believe the Legislature intended the statute to have such arbitrary results.")

    As for how to apply this construction, the Court listed seven "non-exclusive considerations":

    1. Did the alleged negligence of the defendant occur in the course of the defendant’s performing tasks with the purpose of protecting patients from harm;
    2. Did the injuries occur in a place where patients might be during the time they were receiving care, so that the obligation of the provider to protect persons who require special, medical care was implicated;
    3. At the time of the injury was the claimant in the process of seeking or receiving health care;
    4. At the time of the injury was the claimant providing or assisting in providing health care;
    5. Is the alleged negligence based on safety standards arising from professional duties owed by the health care provider;
    6. If an instrumentality was involved in the defendant’s alleged negligence, was it a type used in providing health care; or
    7. Did the alleged negligence occur in the course of the defendant’s taking action or failing to take action necessary to comply with safety-related requirements set for health care providers by governmental or accrediting agencies?

    The Court acknowledged that "the line between a safety standards-based claim that is not a[ health-care liability claim] and one that is ... may not always be clear." On this record, as it turns out, all seven of those considerations favored the plaintiff.

    The opinion of the Court does not offer explicit guidance about how lower courts should deal with a situation in which these considerations point in different directions. The concurring opinion (written by Justice Lehrmann and joined by Justice Devine) argues that, when such a situation arises, two of the considerations (the third and fifth) should be viewed as more important than the others because they focus most directly on the relationship between patient and doctor.

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