Phillips v. Jones

Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-15-00005 (January 7, 2016)

Justices Lang-Miers (Opinion), Evans, and Schenck

Both the Texas Supreme Court and the Dallas Court of Appeals have recently explained that a slip-and-fall case isn’t transformed from a simple premises liability claim to a health care liability claim, subject to the expert-report and other requirements of Civil Practice & Remedies Code Chapter 74, just because the accident occurred in a medical facility. (See previous blog posts here and here.) But in Phillips, the Dallas Court found that slipping off the step of an examining room table does give rise to a health care liability claim.

The plaintiff argued her claim was not subject to Chapter 74 because it was “not based upon any medical care provided or not provided by the Appellees” and was not “based upon any departure from accepted standards of medical care directly related to health care provided to [her] by the Appellees.” The Court disagreed, stating that the pivotal issue is whether the claim “implicate[s] the defendant’s duties as a health care provider, including its duties to provide for patient safety.” The Court noted that the examination room where the fall occurred is not “accessible by the public,” that the physician uses the examination room to examine patients who have sought the physician’s medical services, and that the examination table is an “instrumentality integral to the rendition of medical services in a physician’s examination room.” The Court distinguished recent cases in which accidents in hospital elevators, parking lots, and lobbies were held not to have a “substantive nexus” with the provision of health care.

The plaintiff’s claims, therefore, were health care liability claims, and the trial court was correct in dismissing those claims because of plaintiff’s failure to tender an expert report as required under Chapter 74.