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Celebrity Healthcare Management, LLC v. Stancu

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

November 17, 2017

CELEBRITY HEALTHCARE MANAGEMENT, LLC, AKA CELEBRITY HEALTHCARE AND CELEBRITY DENTAL, PC AKA CELEBRITY DENTAL, Appellant
v.
JOHN STANCU, Appellee

         On Appeal from the 95th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-16-03438

          Before Justices Bridges, Fillmore, and Stoddart

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          CRAIG STODDART JUSTICE

         This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of appellant's motion to dismiss. In a single issue, Celebrity Healthcare Management, LLC, a/k/a Celebrity Healthcare and Celebrity Dental, PC a/k/a Celebrity Dental ("Celebrity") asserts the trial court erred by failing to dismiss John Stancu's claims because Stancu did not serve an expert report as required by Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. We reverse the trial court's order and remand with instructions for the trial court to grant the motion to dismiss, determine the amount of Celebrity's reasonable attorney's fees and costs of court, and render judgment in favor of Celebrity.

         In his amended petition, Stancu, proceeding pro se, alleges he sought dental care from Celebrity after his denture was broken in a traffic accident. Celebrity agreed to perform the necessary work, including repairing his denture, and to delay payment for its services until Stancu received a settlement check from the insurer covering the accident.

         Stancu alleges that over the course of three months, he had several appointments during which Celebrity performed dental work, including taking x-rays, wax bites, and imprints. However, when Stancu went to Celebrity to receive his repaired denture, Celebrity demanded Stancu pay approximately $1, 200 or it would not release the denture. Stancu did not pay and never received the repaired denture. Stancu's amended petition asserts a single cause of action for breach of contract. He alleges:

By promising to perform the dental work under the agreement to wait for the payment until the accident case is settled, [Celebrity] duped [Stancu] to become their patient, thus (1) depriving him from going to an honest dentist and get a proper medical care, (2) causing further injury to [Stancu's] health by affecting [Stancu's] eating and digestive organs, and (3) attempting to blackmail [Stancu] by telling him that if he wants to get his teeth he has to pay immediately, contrary to the agreement, and in complete disregard of the most basic medical ethic: first do no harm.

         Stancu alleges Celebrity sent a bill for dental work to the lawyer representing him in the car accident "in spite of the fact that [Celebrity's] actions produced nothing but harm to [Stancu]."

         Celebrity timely answered. After the expiration of 120 days, Celebrity filed a motion to dismiss and for attorney's fees on the ground that Stancu asserts a health care liability claim governed by Chapter 74 of the civil practice and remedies code and Stancu was required to serve an expert report on Celebrity. Because Stancu failed to serve an expert report, Celebrity asserted the trial court must dismiss his cause with prejudice and award reasonable attorney's fees and costs. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.351(a), (b). In its motion, Celebrity argued Stancu's petition presents a medical malpractice case involving allegedly negligent dental care.

         The trial court conducted a hearing on the motion to dismiss and concluded Stancu's petition does not present a health care liability claim and, therefore, Stancu was not required to file an expert report. The court denied the motion to dismiss and this appeal followed.

         Section 74.351 of the civil practice and remedies code requires a plaintiff in a case involving a health care liability claim to serve one or more expert reports on the defendant no later than the 120th day after the defendant's original answer is filed. Id. § 74.351(a). If the plaintiff fails to timely serve an expert report, the statute requires the trial court, upon motion, to dismiss the plaintiff's claim with prejudice and award reasonable attorney's fees and costs of court to the defendant. Id. § 74.351(b). It is uncontested that Stancu did not serve an expert report.

         The central issue in this case is whether Stancu's claims constitute health care liability claims under chapter 74 such that he was required to serve an expert report. Chapter 74 defines a "health care liability claim" as:

a cause of action against a health care provider or physician for treatment, lack of treatment, or other claimed departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health care, or safety or professional or administrative services directly related to health care, which proximately results in injury to or death of a claimant, whether the claimant's claim or cause of action sounds in tort or contract.

Id. ยง 74.001(a)(13). The Texas Supreme Court identified three basic elements of a health care ...


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