Supreme Court Reverses Itself

Recently, the Supreme Court reversed its own ruling from just one year before and dismissed a claim brought by a patient in a hospital. In the case of Marks v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2010(8/27/10), the Court overturned its holding in the matter from almost exactly one year earlier.

Mr. Marks sustained injuries when the footboard of a hospital bed collapsed. He brought suit alleging various malpractice claims, and in addition, a claim that the bed had been defectively built or maintained. The malpractice claims were dismissed before the case reached the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court, changing its opinion from one year ago, ruled that the bed is “integral” to the provision of health care, which means that a medical expert report was required in the case. The Court further refused to grant the patient an extension of time to file such a report.

The determination of whether an injury in a hospital constitutes malpractice (and therefore requires an expert report) “requires an examination of the claim’s underlying nature. . . . [T]he relationship between the injury causing event and the patient’s care or treatment must be substantial and direct for the cause of action to be a health care liability claim.” Here, the claim derives from “equipment provided during Mark’s inpatient care. Medical equipment specific to a particular patient’s care or treatment is an integral and inseparable part of the health care services provided.” Thus, the case is “a health care liability claim.”