The Houston Appellate Court (14th District), recently held that a plaintiff’s negligent hiring claim falls under the Health Care Claims Liability Act and is technically a “health care liability claim.”  In this case, the dispute involves an elderly woman who was injured by a contract valet driver who was parking the woman’s car outside the home.   The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the claim because the plaintiff failed to file an expert report, detailing the expected standard of care that should have been followed by the facility in providing its “health care” to the injured plaintiff.

This is the most recent case in a line of cases in which Texas courts have stretched the boundaries of common sense while interpreting the term “health care liability claim.”  The trend began with a 2012 Texas Supreme Court case, Texas West Oaks Hospital v. Williams, which held that even claims that have no direct relation to health care are “health care liability claims.”  This has forced employees of health care centers to file personal injury claims against employers who do not subscribe to the workers’ compensation system (non-subscribers) to file their claims under the Health Care Claims Liability Act.  Doing so subjects plaintiffs to damage caps and increased burdens, requiring them to file expert reports within 120 days of filing their petitions.

Since Texas West Oaks Hospital v. Williams in 2012, courts have begun finding that nearly any claim filed against a health care center to be a medical malpractice claim, whether the relationship between the injury and the health care is direct or indirect.  For instance, a retired doctor is currently arguing that the Health Care Claims Liability Act can be used to dismiss a personal injury claim filed against him by a plaintiff who was allegedly injured after hitting the defendant’s loose cow that had wandered onto the road.  [See “How Is Hitting a Cow in the Road Med Mal?” Texas Lawyer, Jan. 19, 2015.].

As the definition of “health care” continues to expand, there must be some end in sight.  How far are the courts willing to protect health care companies at the expense of injured plaintiffs?  Common sense must eventually trump the “goals” of tort reform, right?  We will see.

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