Hospital parking lot and golf cart shuttle injuries in Texas

You’d think that pro-hospital tort reform protections would only apply when a plaintiff’s claims involve negligent health care. The reality, though, is that the Texas Medical Liability Act (Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Chapter 74) is much broader than that.

Whether Chapter 74 applies to a particular case requires a factually-specific analysis that’s unique to that case. Texas appellate court opinions really get into the weeds when reviewing these cases and have been pretty expansive in finding different types of claims against hospitals that fall within the confines of tort reform.

In cases where Chapter 74 applies—such as medical malpractice, for example—Texas law requires plaintiffs to hire expensive physician (and sometimes other) expert witnesses to prepare detailed written reports not long after a lawsuit is filed. When a plaintiff doesn’t comply with the requirement, the trial court will dismiss the case and enter an order requiring the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s attorney’s fees.

Texas law is perceived as so pro-hospital that many attorneys have a knee-jerk reaction to decline any claim involving a hospital—even those claims that shouldn’t truly involve Chapter 74.

Knowing whether this tort reform law applies or not can make a big difference in whether a case makes economic sense to pursue. I believe the best type of lawyer to make that call is one with significant familiarity and experience in Texas medical malpractice cases.

How to decide if tort reform applies

Not all injury claims involving Texas hospitals are medical malpractice or health care liability claims that trigger anti-plaintiff tort reform measures. In its important opinion in Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, 462 S.W.3d 496 (Tex. 2005), the Texas Supreme Court announced seven non-exclusive factors that should be considered to determine if a claim against a hospital is a health care liability claim that falls within tort reform:

(1) Did the defendant’s alleged negligence occur while the defendant was 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?

(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?

Does a golf cart accident trigger tort reform?

We’ve been working a case involving a woman who went to see her doctor in a professional building that was located near one of the large Houston-area hospital complexes. It was raining on that particular day, so she used a shuttle service provided by the hospital to take her from her car to the professional building.

The vehicle that the hospital shuttle service used was sort of like a golf cart. Unfortunately, as she was getting out of the golf cart, the driver suddenly took off and caused her to fall to the ground. Instead of getting to see her regular doctor that day, she needed ambulance to take her to the nearby hospital emergency room (ER).

Once she was evaluated in the ER, diagnostic radiology imaging showed that she had a broken hip. She required hospital admission, hip surgery, admission to a rehabilitation facility, and then lengthy rehabilitation care.

We concluded that Chapter 74 tort reform didn’t apply, principally because she wasn’t in an area where health care would normally be provided and wasn’t, in fact, receiving health care when her injury occurred.

If you’ve been injured because of medical malpractice or any other type of mishap at a hospital in Texas, contact a top-rated experienced Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for a free consultation about your potential case.

Robert Painter
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Robert Painter

Robert Painter is an award-winning medical malpractice attorney at Painter Law Firm Medical Malpractice Attorneys in Houston, Texas. He is a former hospital administrator who represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death lawsuits all over Texas. Contact him for a free consultation and strategy session by calling 281-580-8800 or emailing him right now.