Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gannon v. Wyche; Petition for Review filed

The health care providers filed a Petition for Review in the Texas Supreme Court on November 5, 2010.

See the docket page at Docket DB.

See my summary of the appellate opinion at 14th COA; Gannon et al v.-Wyche; expert reports

Monday, November 15, 2010

Investing in Lawsuits

NYT Business Day

The New York Times has an article today on investors funding personal injury lawsuits, including medical malpractice cases.  The articles references the Texas cases filed by Jared Woodfill against BNSF for failing to provide safety equipment or warnings to employees working with creosote. 

What effect do you think this trend would have on resolving medical malpractice claims in Texas? 

SCOTX extends electronic briefing rules

SCOTX blog

Check out Don Cruse's post on the new electronic briefing rules in the Texas Supreme Court.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Supreme Court hears oral arguments in an expert report case

On Tuesday November 9, 2010, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in an expert report/no report case.  Below is the summary from Osler McCarthy, the Court's staff attorney for public information.  Click on docket for links to the briefs and procedural history of this case. 

Tyler Scoresby, M.D. v. Catarino Santillan, No. 09-0497 (Docket)

In this appeal from a trial court’s failure to dismiss a health-care liability suit, a principal issue is whether an expert report can be so deficient in addressing the elements of a claim that it constitutes no report at all, requiring dismissal instead of an extension to cure the defects. Santillan sued over alleged mistakes during surgery on a minor son’s nasal tumors that led to bleeding and his partial paralysis. Dr. Scoresby, an ear-nose-throat surgeon, moved to dismiss the claim because Santillan’s expert report, by a neurologist, did not establish a care standard, show how the standard was breached or how the breach caused the son’s injuries. The report also did not include the expert’s credentials. Instead of dismissing the suit, the trial granted a 30-day statutory extension to cure a deficient report. Scoresby appealed that ruling, arguing to the court of appeals, as he does in this Court, that the expert report amounted to no report at all, requiring dismissal. The appeals court dismissed the doctor’s interlocutory appeal, holding that an extension to cure a deficient report could not be reviewed.

My thanks to Don Cruse and the Supreme Court of Texas blog. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

14th COA--West Houston Medical Center v. Priester; timeliness of an expert report

When does the clock start for an expert report when plaintiff has filed more than one lawsuit arising from the same incident?

In this interlocutory appeal, the COA considered whether the trial court was required to dismiss the claims against West Houston Medical Center because the plaintiff failed to serve it within 120 days of filing an original petition against a different defendant in a separate suit. 

Plaintiff sued an employee of WHMC in county court for sexual assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Counsel for the parties agreed on the record that this was not a health care liability claim and that no report was required.

Subsequently, Plaintiff sued WHMC in district court.  Within 120 days of filing suit, she served three expert reports.  WHMC objected to the timeliness of the reports, claiming they should have been served within 120 days of the suit against the employee. 

The Court rejected WHMC's arguments and held, "The filing of an original petition does not 'start the clock' for the claimant to serve expert reports on health care providers whom the claimant has never named as a party."  The COA also pointed out, "[E]ven when a defendant health care provider has been added to a pending suit by amendment of the petition, courts consistently have held that expert reports as to the claims against that defendant must be filed within 120 days after an amended petition first added that provider to the case." 

See the opinion at WHMC v. Priester.

14th COA--Kapoor v. Klovenski; expert report failed to state qualifications and causation in a failure to diagnose cancer case

The Estate of Margaret Klovenski sued Dr. Kapoor and alleged that he failed to diagnose her cancer.  Plaintiffs filed the expert report of Dr. Julie Graves Moy.   Dr. Kapoor objected and moved to dismiss.  He alleged that Dr. Moy (1) was unqualified; (2) offered only conclusory opinions about causation; and (3) failed to state the standard of care or Dr. Kapoor's breach.

The COA first discussed qualifications and referred to the Broders case.  The COA held, "Where a physician's failure to diagnose is alleged to have harmed a pt, an expert testifying as to causation must be qualified to opine about the effect of a timely diagnosis and treatment on the outcome."  Dr. Moy did not state any experience or credentials to demonstrate that she was qualified to testify about what treatments would have been available with an earlier diagnosis or whether earlier administration of potential treatments would have resulted in a more favorable outcome.  As a result, the COA held that the trial court abused its discretion in overruling Dr. Kapoor's objections. 

The COA also considered Dr. Kapoor's objections to Dr. Moy's statements on the causal link between his failure to diagnose cancer and Ms. Klovenski's death.  The COA noted that in opining on causation, the expert must offer more that a general opinion that timely diagnosis would have led to a better outcome.  In this type of case, the expert must explain how the complained-of harm would not have happened if the injury had been diagnosed in a timely fashion.  Because Dr. Moy failed to connect her conclusion to any specific facts regarding whether this cancer was treatable or how earlier treatment would have changed her prognosis, her report was insufficient. 

The COA remanded the case to the trial court to consider whether to grant Plaintiff a 30-day extension to cure the report.

See the opinion at Kapoor v. Klovenski.

This opinion was released on September 23, 2010.