On November 5, 2014, the Supreme Court of Texas is set to hear oral arguments in Lezlea Ross v. St. Luke’s Hospital. Ross was injured when she slipped and fell in the lobby of St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital after visiting a patient. Ross fled suit against the Hospital and its maintenance and training contractor, Aramark Management Services, L.P. Based on the Texas Medical Liability Act, St. Luke’s filed a motion to dismiss Ross’ lawsuit because Ross did not file an “expert report” detailing how the Hospital was responsible for the injuries resulting from her slip and fall. The trial court granted the Hospital’s motion and dismissed Ross’s claims against the Hospital. The Court also ordered that Ross pay attorneys fees of $1,000.
In 2003, based on what was portrayed by lobbyist as a “medical malpractice crisis” the Texas legislature broadened the scope of the Texas Medical Liability Act to include all “health care providers” providing “medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care.” Under the revisions to the TMLA, a report from a qualified expert must be obtained before or immediately after suit is filed on a “medical liability” claim. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Texas further expanded the scope of the TMLA in Texas West Oaks Hospital, L.P., v. Williams, 371 S.W.3d 171, when it held that Health Care Liability Claims under the TMLA “need not be directly related to the provision of healthcare,” but basically cover virtually any claim being asserted against any healthcare provider, whether or not it is being asserted by patient any other individual. In West Oaks, the Supreme Court of Texas threw out the claims of an injured medical technician who had filed suit against his employer for injuries sustained at work reasoning that William’s on the job injury claims were covered by the TMLA and necessitated an expert report.
Based on the revisions to the TMLA and the Supreme Court of Texas’ expansionistic interpretation of the Act, not only has the state of medical care in Texas been significantly reduced as a result of the loss of an effective means of holding negligent doctors and hospitals responsible for their negligence, large numbers of health care workers and others are being denied their day in court. Indeed, many hospitals do not carry workers’ compensation coverage and when a nurse or medical technician is injured on the job, their only recourse is to file suit against their employer – a remedy which is effectively barred by the high cost of obtaining an “expert report” before suit can be filed.