Supreme Court Exempts Doctors from Their Negligence

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last month that doctors employed by the Health Science Center in San Antonio cannot be held accountable for their alleged negligence when delivering a baby. The decision came in Franka and Reddy v. Velasquez, et al., ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011).

In Franka, the “baby’s left clavicle was fractured, and he suffered injury to his brachial plexus, requiring surgery. . . .” The Texas Tort Claims Act requires a lawsuit to be dismissed against a governmental employee if it could have been brought against the employer. Here, suit could not have been brought against the employer, because governmental immunity was not waived. Accordingly, suit was filed against the allegedly negligent doctors. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the suit against the doctors had to be dismissed. The Court said that, even though immunity was not waived, the suit could have been brought against University Health System. (Of course, that case would have been dismissed because governmental immunity for the allegedly negligent act was not waived.) The bottom line is that, under most circumstances, in a public hospital neither the doctors nor the hospital can ever be held accountable for their negligence.