Thursday, April 18, 2013

Res ipsa loquitur and HCLC expert report requirement

Dallas Court of Appeals says that pleading res ipsa loquitur does not suspend expert report requirement applicable to health care liability claims. Dismissal of suit was proper because no timely report was filed.

RES IPSA LOQUITUR [the thing speaks for itself}

Res ipsa loquitur is not a separate cause of action from negligence; it is a rule of evidence by which the jury may infer negligence. Haddock v. Arnspiger, 793 S.W.2d 948, 950 (Tex. 1990); Broxterman v. Carson, 309 S.W.3d 154, 158 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, pet. denied). It applies to situations in which (1) the character of the accident is such that it would not ordinarily occur in the absence of negligence, and (2) the instrumentality causing the injury is shown to have been under the management and control of the defendant. Haddock, 793 S.W.2d at 951. Further, it applies only when "the nature of the alleged malpractice and injuries are plainly within the common knowledge of laymen, requiring no expert testimony." Id.

The legislature specifically limited the applicability of the doctrine in health care claims only to those cases in which the doctrine had been applied by Texas appellate courts as of August 29, 1977. See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 74.201. The categories where appellate courts have typically applied the doctrine in health care claims are (1) negligence in the use of mechanical instruments, (2) operating on the wrong portion of the body, and (3) leaving surgical instruments or sponges within the body. Broxterman, 309 S.W.3d at 158-59.

SOURCE: DALLAS COURT OF APPEALS - No. 05-11-01039-CV – 4/2/2013
Sherman v. Healthsouth Specialty Hospital, Inc dba Healthsouth Dallas Rehab Hospital

We express no opinion on whether the use or non-use of a seatbelt for purposes of strapping a wheelchair in a van would fall within any of the three categories because even if the doctrine applies to Sherman's claims, section 74.351 still requires her to file an expert report. See Garcia v. Marichalar, 198 S.W.3d 250, 255-56 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2006, no pet.). As previously noted, section 74.351's expert report requirement is a procedural threshold "over which a claimant must proceed to continue a lawsuit." Murphy, 167 S.W.3d at 838; Garcia, 198 S.W.3d at 255. While section 74.201 allows for the limited applicability of res ipsa loquitur in health care liability cases, it is not "an exception to section 74.351's expert report requirement." Garcia, 198 S.W.3d at 255 (citing Hector v. Christus Health Gulf Coast, 175 S.W.3d 832, 838 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2005, pet. denied)). Nor was the section intended to allow Sherman to simply plead the doctrine as a way to eliminate the procedural requirement of an expert report at the commencement of the litigation. Hector, 175 S.W.3d at 839. Consequently, we overrule Sherman's second issue.


We conclude Sherman's petition alleges health care liability claims under chapter 74 and she therefore was required to serve an expert report. We also conclude the requirement that she file an expert report at the commencement of her suit is a procedural requirement that is not eliminated by pleading the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. Because Sherman did not file an expert report within 120 days of filing suit, the trial court did not err in granting HealthSouth's motion to dismiss. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order.

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