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Sampson v. East Texas Centertyler

Court of Appeals of Texas, Twelfth District, Tyler

January 18, 2018

JENNIFER SAMPSON, INDIVIDUALLY; AS AREPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF SINDY JEAN HAMILTON; AND AS GUARDIAN OF JEANETTE BURTON AND SONYA HOLLIS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF JANET MEYERS, APPELLANTS
v.
EAST TEXAS MEDICAL CENTERTYLER, APPELLEE

Appeal from the 7th District Court of Smith County, Texas (Tr.Ct.No. 16-1738-A)

          Panel consisted of Worthen, C.J., Hoyle, J., and Neeley, J.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James T. Worthen, Chief Justice.

         Jennifer Sampson, Individually, as Representative of the Estate of Sindy Hamilton, and as Guardian of Jeanette Burton, and Sonya Hollis, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of Janet Meyers appeal the trial court's order excluding their expert and dismissing their cause of action. They present three issues on appeal. We affirm.

         Background

         Sampson and Hollis filed this health care liability claim against East Texas Medical Center Tyler (ETMC) alleging ETMC was negligent in the care of two patients. According to Sampson and Hollis, ETMC's negligence caused the patients to develop bedsores. Pursuant to Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Sampson and Hollis served ETMC with two expert reports and a curriculum vitae from their expert, Martha Sanford, Ph.D., R.N. ETMC filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice on grounds that the reports and curriculum vitae did not establish Sanford's qualifications to offer the tendered opinions and that the opinions contained in the reports were insufficient. Sampson and Hollis replied to the motion alleging that Sanford was qualified to offer her opinions because she is a nurse.

         Without conducting an oral hearing, but after the submission date contained in ETMC's motion per the applicable local rules of Smith County, the trial court granted ETMC's motion to dismiss. Sampson and Hollis filed a motion for new trial arguing that Sanford was a qualified expert under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The motion for new trial was overruled by operation of law. This appeal followed.

         Sufficiency of Expert Reports

         In their first issue, Sampson and Hollis contend the trial court erred in excluding Sanford's expert testimony. They argue that Sanford is qualified to render expert opinions under the Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code.

         Standard of Review

         A trial court's decision to grant or deny a motion to dismiss under section 74.351 of the civil practice and remedies code is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. See Am. Transitional Care Ctrs. of Tex., Inc. v. Palacios, 46 S.W.3d 873, 875 (Tex. 2001); Tenet Hosps., Ltd. v. Boada, 304 S.W.3d 528, 533 (Tex. App.-El Paso 2009, pet. denied). A trial court only abuses its discretion when it acts in an unreasonable or arbitrary manner, without reference to any guiding rules or principles. See Walker v. Gutierrez, 111 S.W.3d 56, 62 (Tex. 2003); Boada, 304 S.W.3d at 533. A trial court acts arbitrarily and unreasonably if it could have reached only one decision, but instead reached a different one. See Teixeira v. Hall, 107 S.W.3d 805, 807 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2003, no pet.); Boada, 304 S.W.3d at 533. A trial court also abuses its discretion when it fails to analyze or apply the law correctly. In re Sw. Bell Tel. Co. L.P., 226 S.W.3d 400, 403 (Tex. 2007) (citing In re Kuntz, 124 S.W.3d 179, 181 (Tex. 2003)); Boada, 304 S.W.3d at 533. A trial court does not abuse its discretion merely because it decides a matter within its discretion differently than a reviewing court. Downer v. Aquamarine Operators, Inc., 701 S.W.2d 238, 242 (Tex. 1985).

         Applicable Law

         In a health care liability claim, the claimant shall serve on each party, or the party's attorney, one or more expert reports with a curriculum vitae of each expert listed in the report for each physician or health care provider against whom a liability claim is asserted. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(a) (West 2017). The statute defines an expert report as follows:

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 ...

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