Saturday, July 23, 2011

When is a plaintiff's lawsuit an HCLC [i.e. a med-mal claim as defined and governed by the CPRC]?

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(a)-(b) (West 2011).

Whether a claim is a health care liability claim under section 74.351 is a question of law, which this Court reviews de novo. Tesoro v. Alvarez, 281 S.W.3d 654, 656 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2009, no pet.); Gomez v. Matey, 55 S.W.3d 732, 735 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2001, no pet.).

A health care liability claim is defined as:

[A] cause of action against a health care provider . . . for treatment, lack of treatment, or other claimed departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care, which proximately results in injury to or death of a claimant, whether the claimant's claim or cause of action sounds in tort or contract.

TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 74.001(a)(13).

When determining whether a claim is a health care liability claim, "courts are not bound by the form of the pleading." Harris Methodist Fort Worth v. Ollie, No. 09-0025, 2011 WL 1820880, at *2 (Tex. May 13, 2011); see Yamada v. Friend, 335 S.W.3d 192, 195-196 (Tex. 2010). It is the gravamen of the claim that determines whether the claim is for a departure from accepted standards of safety. Ollie, 2011 WL 1820880, at *2. "[I]f the act or omission that gave rise to the claim is so integral to the rendition of medical services by the provider to be an inseparable part of those services, it constitutes a breach of the standard of care." Diversicare Gen. Partner, Inc. v. Rubio, 185 S.W.3d 842, 849 (Tex. 2005). "Services that a [health care provider] provides its patients necessarily include those services required to meet patients' fundamental needs . . . and safety." Ollie, 2011 WL 1820880, at *2. Finally, whether expert medical testimony is necessary "may also be an important factor in determining whether a cause of action is an inseparable part of the rendition of medical or health care services." Diversicare, 185 S.W.3d at 848.

For purposes of section 74.001, a "health care institution []," includes "a home and community support services agency." TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 74.001(a)(12)(A)(vii), (11)(E) (West 2011).

SOURCE: Corpus Christi Court of Appeals - 13-10-00633-CV - 7/21/11

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