Lee v. Hunter
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-16-00325-CV (October 27, 2016)
Justices Fillmore, Brown (Opinion), and O’Neill
Lois Hunter sued Dr. Jessica Lee after the death of Hunter’s son, James, while he was a patient at Parkland. Lee moved to dismiss under the Texas Tort Claims Act, section 101.106(f), which provides for dismissal of claims “against an employee of a governmental unit based on conduct within the general scope of that employee’s employment.” Lee argued the medical care she provided to James was within the scope of her employment with a governmental unit, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. Hunter disagreed, arguing UT Southwestern did not have the legal right to control the details of Lee’s work.
Under the Texas Tort Claims Act, an “employee” is a person who is in the paid service of a governmental unit, but does not include a person “who performs tasks the details of which the governmental unit does not have the legal right to control.” Lee provided evidence that UT Southwestern controlled the schedule she worked, the facility where she worked, the type of patients she saw, the type of medical services she was authorized to render, and the billing for her services. The Dallas Court of Appeals found that evidence sufficient to establish Lee’s immunity under the statute, even though she was required to exercise independent medical judgment—which UT Southwestern did not control—in the treatment of her patients. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s denial of Lee’s motion for summary judgment and rendered judgment in Lee’s favor.