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Supreme Court Rules Against Patient, Again

Last week, the supreme court threw out another suit brought by an injured patient. The case, the latest of numerous rulings against patients, was Harris Methodist Fort Worth v. Ollie, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011)(5/13/11).

In this case, after receiving a total knee replacement surgery, Ms. Ollie slipped on a wet floor, and injured her right shoulder. She amended her pleadings to only proceed under a general negligence theory, not a medical malpractice theory. the supreme court ruled that her claim was a health care liability claim, and that since she did not file an expert report required by the medical malpractice statute, her case must be dismissed. Further, since the defense had requested fees in the trial court, the supreme court returned the case to the trial court to award "attorney's fees and costs" against her.

"In determining whether a claim [is a medical malpractice case], courts are not bound by the form of the pleading. Rather, the underlying nature of the claim determines whether it is [a health care liability claim]. . . . Thus, it is the underlying nature of Ollie's claim that determines whether the claim is for a departure from accepted standards of safety. . . . And services a hospital provides its patients necessarily include those services required to meet patients' fundamental needs such as cleanliness. . . ." Since the "essence of Ollie's claim centers on the failure of Harris Methodist to act with a proper degree of care to furnish a dry floor, warn her of the hazards of a wet bathroom floor, or some similar failure to act . . . [her action] is a safety claim directly related to services meeting her fundamental needs . . . " and is a health care liability claim requiring an expert report.

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