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Hospital Slip and Fall = Health Care Liability Claim?

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The Case:

Ross v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp., 2013 Tex. App. LEXIS 2796 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 19, 2013, pet. granted)

Brief Facts:

Lezlea Ross slipped and fell in a lobby of St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital after visiting a patient. Ms. Ross alleged that the floors were slippery (an allegation she admitted was safety related) and caused her fall.

The hospital filed a motion to dismiss because Ms. Ross did not file an expert report explaining (1) how the hospital breached the standard of care or (2) how any alleged breach of the standard of care caused her injuries. The trial court granted the motion.

The Appellate Court's Decision:

The Appellate Court affirmed the trial court. The court relied on the Texas Supreme Court's decision in Texas West Oaks Hospital, LP v. Williams, 371 S.W.3d 171, 179-89 (Tex. 2012). The court held that Williams dictated that an "allegation pertaining to safety, standing alone and broadly defined, is sufficient" to trigger the requirements for bringing a health care liability claim.

Conflict with another Appellate Court's Decision:

In August of this year, we blogged about a case out of the Dallas Court of Appeals that addressed whether a fall in a hospital elevator (also admittedly safety related) was subject to the requirements for bringing a health care liability claim. You can see the previous blog post at: http://www.thebassettfirm.com/blog/2014/08/no-love-in-this-elevator.shtml.

There, the Dallas Court of Appeals relied on Williams and held that the fall was not subject to the requirements for bringing a health care liability claim. The Dallas Court of Appeals held that (at a minimum) there must be an indirect relationship between the claim and health care in order to trigger the requirements for bringing a health care liability claim.

What to Take Away:

Depending on how broadly you read Williams, any safety related claim against a hospital is either a health care liability claim (Houston Court of Appeals) or not (Dallas Court of Appeals). Since the Texas Supreme Court has accepted the petition for review in Ross, we will soon have clarification on this issue. Stayed tuned. 

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