It’s usually understood that when a healthcare provider makes a mistake doing something that any lay person can do, the case is one of simple negligence, not medical malpractice. There’s an extremely important difference. Medical negligence must be proven through the testimony of a medical expert. In some states, damages for medical malpractice are capped. Simple negligence, on the other hand, is conduct that falls below what a reasonable person—not an expert—would do. Damages are usually left to the jury’s good judgment.
Texas law as interpreted in a recent case, however, seems to confuse the two standards—leading to what appears to be a gross injustice. In Marks v. St. Luke’s Hospital, the Texas Supreme Court ruled narrowly that hospital injuries unrelated to doctor error may still be subject to the state’s onerous medical malpractice requirements and caps.
The patient/plaintiff alleged that he fell because of a broken hospital bed footboard. He brought a premises liability claim, which is not subject to the medical malpractice rules imposed by Texas law on physician negligence claims. Reversing an earlier ruling upholding the plaintiff’s claims, the court withdrew its prior opinion and upheld the claim’s dismissal. The court reasoned that “[m]edical equipment specific to a particular patient’s care or treatment is an integral and inseparable part of the health care services provided. When the unsafe or defective condition of that equipment injures the patient, the gravamen of the resulting cause of action is a health care liability claim.”
It is difficult to see how a broken piece of hospital room furniture is “integral and indispensable” to medical care. Under the court’s reasoning, a broken thermostat in a patient’s room that allowed the room to become cold enough to cause pneumonia would be treated the same way as a failed IV pump. Is a wet floor that the patient must shuffle across during hospital admission “integral” to the care that he or she receives once in his or her room?
Texas appellate courts have applied similar reasoning Texas appellate courts to find that Texas medical malpractice “tort reform” covered claims by a patient who was sexually assaulted during an exam and by a patient suing a doctor for disclosure of confidential information. The Austin plaintiffs’ law firm Perlmutter & Schuelke has noted that decisions such as these and the recent Marks case create ” a strange anomaly. If a third party visitor to a hospital or doctor’s office is sexually assaulted by another patient or a staff member, that visitor has an assault claim. But a patient is limited to a medical malpractice claim. Similarly, if a visitor goes to see someone in the hospital and is sitting on a bed and it collapses, that visitor has a products liability or premises defect claim. But, again, a patient is limited to a medical malpractice claim. In each case, the stranger receives more protection from the law than the actual patient.” What appears broken here isn’t just a hospital bed.
Portland Medical Malpractice Lawyer
If a broken bed or anything else has harmed you or loved ones during a hospital or doctor visit, contact us. Oregon medical negligence attorney Dane E. Johnson offers a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation. Call us at (503) 975-8298 or contact us online.