PM Management-Trinity NC, LLC v. Kumets
Texas Supreme Court, No. 12-0451 (June 28, 2013)
The Supreme Court held that a retaliation claim asserted by a patient’s family against a nursing home was a healthcare-liability claim under the Texas Medical Liability Act because it was based on the same factual allegations as another claim that the plaintiffs effectively admitted was a healthcare-liability claim. The Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, which had affirmed the trial court’s decision not to dismiss the retaliation claim.
Kumets was a patient at Trinity Care Center. Her family alleged that Trinity’s inadequate care caused Kumets to suffer a stroke, and the family asserted numerous causes of action against Trinity, including breach of fiduciary duty and a statutory retaliation claim under the Texas Health & Safety Code. The Kumetses filed an expert report and an amended expert report, both of which the trial court found deficient. After finding the amended expert report inadequate, the trial court dismissed all of the Kumetses’ claims except the retaliation claim.
Trinity appealed the trial court’s refusal to dismiss the retaliation claim, and the court of appeals affirmed. The court of appeals noted that, under the Texas Medical Liability Act, a healthcare-liability claim must involve “injury to or death of the claimant.” The court of appeals concluded that claims asserting pure economic loss, like the Kumetses’ retaliation claim, do not meet this element of the definition and therefore are not healthcare-liability claims.
The Supreme Court did not address the court of appeals’ “economic loss” rationale, instead noting that, under its precedents, claims based on the same facts as healthcare-liability claims are themselves healthcare-liability claims that must be dismissed absent a sufficient expert report. The Court observed that the Kumetses’ fiduciary duty claim was supported by an allegation that Trinity “retaliated against [Kumets] once complaints were made about her poor treatment.” The Kumetses did not appeal the trial court’s determination that their fiduciary duty claim was a healthcare-liability claim, and the Court therefore considered that status to be established for purposes of its review. Because the Kumetses’ retaliation claim was based on the same underlying facts as a healthcare-liability claim, the Court concluded the retaliation claim was necessarily a healthcare-liability claim subject to the expert-report requirement. The Court therefore reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss and award appropriate attorneys’ fees and costs to Trinity.