Mental Healthcare Employee’s Claims for Failure To Provide Safety Protocols and Equipment Are Health Care Liability Claims

A man was admitted to the defendant mental health hospital and placed on on-to-one observation and restricted to his unit due to his history of violent outbursts. Cross-plaintiff, a psychiatric technician and professional caregiver at the hospital, was supervising him when the patient became agitated. The caregiver took the patient to an outdoor enclosed smoking area, a place the caregiver had taken the patient before without incident, in an attempt to calm him. The smoking area contained no surveillance equipment and the door locked behind them. The two men engaged in a physical altercation. The patient died and the cross-plaintiff suffered injuries.


The estate of the patient sued the hospital and the caregiver. The caregiver filed a cross-claim against the hospital for failure to train, supervise, provide safety protocols, equip, warn, and provide a safe workplace, which was originally characterized as a negligence claim pursuant to the state statute applying to employee claims against an employer who did not subscribe to the state’s workers’ compensation scheme. The hospital filed a motion to dismiss the employee’s claims arguing that they were more accurately characterized as health care liability claims subject to the medical expert requirement and, because the employee failed to include a report of a medical expert, his claim should be dismissed. The trial court denied the motion, the hospital brought an interlocutory appeal, and the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision.


The Supreme Court of Texas reversed holding that the employee’s claims were properly characterized as health care liability claims subject to the requirements of the Texas Medical Liability Act including the expert report filing requirement. Specifically, the court abrogated a number of cases when it held that claims based on departures from accepted standards of safety need not be directly related to providing health care in order to qualify as health care liability claims. Because the employee’s claims related to whether the hospital failed to meet the accepted standards of safety, he was required to provide an experts statement establishing that standard.


See: Texas West Oaks Hosp., LP v. Williams, 2012 WL 2476807 (Tex. Jun 29, 2012) (not designated for publication).