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Claim by Nurse Injured While Restraining Psychiatric Patient Requires Expert Report


A psychiatric nurse at a behavioral health center was injured at work while physically restraining a psychiatric patient during a behavioral emergency. The nurse subsequently filed suit asserting a cause of action for negligence against the behavioral health center, seeking damages for personal injuries. Specifically, the claim alleged the nurse was injured as a result of improper security of a dangerous psychiatric patient because the behavioral health center failed to provide a safe working environment and failed to make sufficient precautions for his safety.

 

Over 120 days later, the behavioral health center moved to dismiss the nurse's suit, claiming the suit alleged a health care liability claim (HCLC) and must be dismissed because the nurse failed to serve an expert report as required by the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and the court of appeals affirmed. The 166th Judicial District Court denied the employer's motion to dismiss. The San Antonio Court of Appeals affirmed.

                     

The Supreme Court of Texas reversed and remanded with instructions. The court held that the nurse's negligence claim against the behavioral health center was an HCLC that required an expert report. The court held that an HCLC has three basic elements: (1) a physician or health care provider must be a defendant; (2) the claim or claims at issue must concern treatment, lack of treatment, or a departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care; and (3) the defendant's act or omission complained of must proximately cause the injury to the claimant.

 

The nurse's negligence action concerned treatment, lack of treatment, or a departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care. Therefore, the action constituted an HCLC such that failure to serve the behavioral health center with an expert report within the TMLA's 120-day deadline mandated dismissal. The case was reversed and remanded with instructions.

 

See: Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. v. Palit, 2013 WL 4493118 (Tex., August 23, 2013) (not designated for publication).

 

 

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