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Fields v. Good Shepherd Hospital, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana

May 31, 2017

KEVIN D. FIELDS, Appellant
v.
GOOD SHEPHERD HOSPITAL, INC., D/B/A GOOD SHEPHERD MEDICAL CENTER, Appellee

          Date Submitted: April 18, 2017

         On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 2 Gregg County, Texas Trial Court No. 2015-1911-CCL2

          Before Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Josh R. Morriss III Chief Justice.

         In his second attempt at providing a qualifying expert report to support his health care liability claim against Good Shepherd Hospital, Inc., d/b/a Good Shepherd Medical Center, Kevin D. Fields filed a report that Good Shepherd attacked as being deficient.[1] The trial court, agreeing that Fields' second report also failed to comply with the statutory requirements, dismissed Fields' claims with prejudice.[2]

         Fields appeals the dismissal. We affirm the trial court's ruling because (1) the expert report stated no standard of care for Good Shepherd or its employees, (2) the report failed to state how a standard of care was breached, and (3) the report stated a conclusory opinion on causation.[3]

         A claimant who files a health care liability claim must serve on each defendant one or more expert reports, along with each expert's curriculum vitae (CV), not later than the 120th day after each defendant files an answer. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(a). A trial court may grant a motion to dismiss under Section 74.351 if it determines that the expert report does not constitute a good faith effort to comply with subsection (r)(6) "with sufficient specificity to inform the defendant of the conduct the plaintiff has called into question and to provide a basis for the trial court to conclude that the claims have merit." Am. Transitional Care Ctrs. of Tex., Inc. v. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d 873, 875 (Tex. 2001); Highland Pines Nursing & Rehab. v. Wiley, 496 S.W.3d 804, 809 (Tex. App -Texarkana 2016, no pet.); see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(r)(6).[4] Merely stating the expert's conclusions about the standard of care, breach, and causation does not constitute a good-faith effort to comply with the statute. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d at 879. Rather, to be a good-faith effort, the report must discuss the expert's opinions regarding the standard of care, breach, and causation with sufficient specificity to both inform the defendant of the questionable conduct and to give the trial court a basis to determine the claims have merit. Id; Wiley, 496 S.W.3d at 809. Further, "the expert must explain the basis of his statements to link his conclusions to the facts." Bowie Mem'l Hosp. v. Wright, 79 S.W.3d 48, 52 (Tex. 2002) (per curiam) (quoting Earle v. Ratliff, 998 S.W.2d 882, 890 (Tex. 1999)). If the report omits any of the elements required by subsection (r)(6), it does not constitute a good-faith effort. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d at 879.

         We review for an abuse of discretion a trial court's decision on a motion to dismiss pursuant to Section 74.351. Marente v. Asah, 486 S.W.3d 680, 684 (Tex. App-Texarkana 2016, no pet.) (citing Palacios, 46 S.W.3d at 875). We will reverse the trial court's decision only if we find it acted in an unreasonable or arbitrary manner without reference to any guiding rules or principles. Wiley, 496 S.W.3d at 809 (citing Wright, 79 S.W.3d at 52). In our review, we may not substitute our opinion for that of the trial court. Id. (citing Wright, 79 S.W.3d at 52).

         (1) The Expert Report Stated No Standard of Care for Good Shepherd or Its Employees

         In the section of the report titled "Standard of Care, " Edwards set out the purpose of an IV lock placement, but otherwise simply recited the facts regarding Fields' emergency room visit and discharge and Edwards' understanding of subsequent events. Nowhere in the section was a standard of care stated for either Good Shepherd or its nurses. Further, the "Breach of Standard of Care" section merely recited Edwards' understanding of the legal definition of negligence and proximate cause. Recognizing these deficiencies, Fields argues that Edwards made an "open ended statement" on the standard of care when he stated that he was familiar with the standard of care for IV placement and removal in an emergency room visit. He also argues that the "Proximate Cause" section of the report stated the standard of care, and the breaches thereof, "in the Negative." The "Proximate Cause" section stated:

(1) Amanda Olivera-Hall, no title given, discharged the patient with the IV still in place at 14:45.
(2) The discharge instructions do not mention the examination of Mr. Fields['] skin where the IV was placed and the condition it was in when he was discharged by the nurse or doctor. Therefore, the patient was not made aware what to possibly look for in his discharge summary of what signs, symptoms, fever, uncontrollable pain, nausea, vomiting, or signs of infection at the site of the IV.
(3) No documentation of Mr. Fields' return to the ED as to the time of his signed in or did not sign in as a patient or the time of the return.
(4) No documentation that Mr. Fields['] chart was re-opened or an addendum of the time he returned, his condition upon his ...

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