Houston appellate court applies Texas medical malpractice tort reform law to lack of jailhouse healthcare

The claws of Texas medical malpractice tort reform extend far, even reaching jail houses.

Houston’s 14th Court of Appeals recently entered opinion dealing with an alleged denial of health care at the Galveston County jail. The case is styled Boon-Chapman v. Patterson, No. 14-19-00491-CV, In the 14th Court of Appeals of Texas. You can read the opinion here.

The plaintiff’s situation began with a single-car accident during which she broke her arm. The Galveston County Sheriff’s office responded at the scene, issuing her a ticket for driving while intoxicated. A deputy sheriff took her for processing to the Galveston County Jail.

When the plaintiff arrived at the jail, she alleges that she requested immediate medical assistance, but was denied medical care during the two days that she was in custody.

As with many cases involving inmate complaints, the plaintiff alleged constitutional and civil rights violation under federal law. These are generally referred to as “Section 1983 claims.” She named as defendants Galveston County, the sheriff, and the police officer, alleging civil rights and Section 1983 claims. She also named three health care providers, including a nurse health-services administrator at the jail, alleging that her constitutional rights were violated by their denial of her request for medical care.

After filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff and her attorney did not serve any medical expert reports. That was a risky decision. After all, if a court determined that the petition alleged a health care liability claim, then the Texas Medical Liability Act would require the plaintiff to serve at least one medical expert report and accompanying curriculum vitae/CV on the health care defendant within 120 days of that defendant’s filing an answer and lawsuit. Missing the deadline requires dismissal and an order for the plaintiff to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees.

It’s no surprise that this is precisely the issue that was brought up to the 14th Court of Appeals.

After the plaintiff didn’t serve an expert report within the 120-day period, the health care defendants filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court sided with plaintiff and determined that the lawsuit dealt with constitutional or Section 1983 claims, rather than health care liability claims that fall under the Texas Medical Liability Act.

The court of appeals completely disagreed. In its order, the court found that the trial court erred in denying the motion to dismiss and, therefore, reversed the trial court order with instructions to award the health care providers their reasonable attorney’s fees and cost of court and to dismiss the claims against them with prejudice.

When you have a claim involving health care in Texas, a safe bet is to consult a top-rated attorney with extensive experience in handling medical malpractice claims.

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.