Medical malpractice lawsuit by Bill Paxton's family shows how wrongful death claims work

Around a year ago, Fort Worth, Texas native Bill Paxton died just 11 days after surgery in a Los Angeles hospital. His family recently filed a wrongful death and medical malpractice lawsuit against the hospital.

What is a wrongful death claim?

At common law, when a person died, all claims and causes actions of that person also died, as did all losses of family members as a result of the loved one’s death.

Each state legislature has passed its own wrongful death statute that defines who can file a wrongful death claim (called the wrongful death beneficiaries) and the time limits for filing suit (statute of limitations).

The Texas wrongful death statute is found at Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code chapter 71. It limits wrongful death beneficiaries to the spouse, children, and parents of the deceased. I have handled lawsuits in other states, like Wyoming and West Virginia, where wrongful death statutes are more expansive and include brothers and sisters.

In most situations, the Texas statute of limitations for wrongful death claims is two years. To talk about the details and time limits of your specific case, call Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation.

In Texas, wrongful death beneficiaries can bring a lawsuit for monetary losses, as well as losses from pain, suffering, mental anguish, love and companionship, and inheritance.  The monetary losses can be significant, including the lost wages and earnings and household services that would have otherwise been provided to the wrongful death beneficiaries but for the death.

Survival claims are different

The Texas Survival Statute, also found in Chapter 71 of the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code, allows claims to be made by the deceased person’s representative or estate for damages that occurred before death, including pain, suffering, mental anguish, medical bills, and even funeral expenses.

The Bill Paxton wrongful death case

Bill Paxton died of a heart condition within days of having surgery at a Los Angeles hospital to repair a bicuspid valve and aortic aneurysm (a bubble or enlargement of an artery caused by a weakened arterial wall, which can burst).

Paxton’s wrongful death beneficiaries allege that the hospital did not fulfill their duty to obtain proper informed consent. The lawsuit says that the hospital, “misrepresented and/or concealed information relating to the risks of surgery and care that would be provided and/or failed to adequately explain the proposed treatment or procedure and/or failed to disclose that [the surgeon] was going to use a high-risk and unconventional surgical approach with which he lacked experience and which was . . . beyond the scope of his privileges.”

Texas law requires a physician to obtain informed consent before beginning a surgery on a patient. While the hospital nursing staff may help with the process, the duty cannot be delegated by the doctor. It is up to the doctor has to explain to the patient the proposed treatment, any alternatives, and the risks and benefits of the proposed treatment, alternatives, and doing nothing at all. A patient can only provide informed consent if he or she has all of this information.

The lawsuit also accuses the surgeon of leaving the operating room when Paxton experienced complications and no “arranging for continuous care and coverage.”

We are here to help

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured, or has a potential wrongful death claim, call the experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Painter Law Firm, in Houston, Texas, at 281-580-8800, for a free consultation about your potential claim.


Robert Painter is an attorney at Painter Law Firm PLLC, in Houston, Texas. He represents patients and family members in medical negligence and wrongful death claims, suing hospitals and doctors in both the Houston area and throughout the State of Texas. In 2017, H Texas magazine recognized him as one of Houston’s top lawyers. Also in 2017, the Better Business Bureau honored Painter Law Firm PLLC with its Award of Distinction.

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.