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Minck v. Perales

Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg

May 25, 2017

RORY N. MINCK, M.D., Appellant,

         On appeal from the 139th District Court of Hidalgo County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Valdez and Justices Rodriguez and Hinojosa



         In this interlocutory appeal, appellant Rory N. Minck, M.D., challenges the denial of his motion to dismiss the health care liability claim of appellees Corina May Perales and Daniel Davila Perales. By one issue, Dr. Minck argues that deficiencies in the Peraleses' expert report required dismissal, and the trial court therefore abused its discretion in denying his motion. We affirm.

         I. Background

         The Peraleses filed suit against Knapp Medical Center, which does not participate in this appeal, and Dr. Minck. The petition alleged that on the night of June 28, 2013, when Corina was nine months pregnant, she fell in the shower and landed "hard" on her stomach. She sought medical attention at Knapp Medical Center. Dr. Minck was Knapp's on-call obstetrician and gynecologist at the time, and he was notified by telephone of Corina's situation minutes after her arrival. Dr. Minck ordered an ultrasound, and various medical personnel at Knapp monitored her condition and administered other care over the coming hours. However, the petition alleged that in the hours that followed, the vital signs of Corina's unborn child began to deteriorate. Dr. Minck came to the hospital and performed an emergency cesarean section, but by the time of delivery, the child had died.

         The Peraleses filed their health care liability claims on December 18, 2014, alleging that the death of their child was proximately caused by various acts and omissions by Knapp's medical personnel, with Dr. Minck among them. Pursuant to the medical liability statute, the Peraleses filed an expert report authored by Robert S. Crumb, M.D. After a series of objections by Dr. Minck and Knapp, the Peraleses obtained leave from the trial court to file Dr. Crumb's amended expert report. Dr. Minck again filed objections, which were overruled, and he then filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied. This interlocutory appeal followed.

         II. Discussion

         By his sole issue on appeal, Dr. Minck argues that deficiencies in the expert report required dismissal pursuant to the expert report requirement of the medical liability statute. Dr. Minck challenges nearly every aspect of the report as conclusory and speculative. He also argues that the report fails to adequately address two of the three required elements of a health care liability claim: breach and causation. Dr. Minck contends that in light of these material deficiencies, the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion to dismiss.

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         We apply the abuse-of-discretion standard in reviewing the trial court's decision on a motion to dismiss under the expert report rule. Jelinek v. Casas, 328 S.W.3d 526 (Tex. 2010). A district court abuses its discretion if it acts in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner without reference to any guiding rules or principles. Crawford v. XTO Energy, Inc., 509 S.W.3d 906, 911 (Tex. 2017).

         "Expert report" means a written report by an expert that provides a fair summary of the expert's opinions as of the date of the report regarding applicable standards of care, the manner in which the care rendered by the physician or health care provider failed to meet the standards, and the causal relationship between that failure and the injury, harm, or damages claimed. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(r)(6) (West, Westlaw through 2015 R.S.). A court shall grant the motion to dismiss "only if it appears to the court, after hearing, that the report does not represent a good faith effort to comply with the definition of an expert report in Subsection (r)(6) . . . ." Jelinek, 328 S.W.3d at 539 (quoting Bowie Mem'l Hosp. v. Wright, 79 S.W.3d 48, 51-52 (Tex. 2002) (per curiam)) (emphasis in original); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(l).

         A "good-faith effort" is one that provides information sufficient to (1) "inform the defendant of the specific conduct the plaintiff has called into question, " and (2) "provide a basis for the trial court to conclude that the claims have merit." Jelinek, 328 S.W.3d at 539. All information needed for this inquiry is found within the four corners of the expert report, which need not marshal all the plaintiff's proof, but must include the expert's opinion on each of the three main elements: standard of care, breach, and causation. Id. (quoting Am. Transitional Care Ctrs. of Tex., Inc. v. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d 873, 879 (Tex. 2001)). The report cannot merely state the expert's conclusions about these elements, but instead must explain the basis of the expert's statements to link his conclusions to the facts. Id.; see Samlowski v. Wooten, 332 S.W.3d 404, 409-10 (Tex. 2011) (plurality op.). In this ...

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