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Texas Health Resources v. Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

May 16, 2018

TEXAS HEALTH RESOURCES, Appellant
v.
COMING ATTRACTIONS BRIDAL AND FORMAL, INC., Appellee

          On Appeal from the County Court at Law No. 1 Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. CC-16-05010-A

          Before Chief Justice Wright, Justice Fillmore, and Justice Stoddart

          OPINION

          CRAIG STODDART JUSTICE.

         Texas Health Resources ("THR") appeals the trial court's order denying its motion to dismiss filed pursuant to the Texas Medical Liability Act. In a single issue, THR asserts the trial court erred by concluding the allegations made by Coming Attractions Bridal and Formal, Inc. ("CABF") do not constitute a "health care liability claim" as defined in Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code and denying its motion to dismiss. Because we conclude CABF asserts a health care liability claim and it did not serve an expert report on THR as required by the statute, we vacate the trial court's order, dismiss CABF's claims with prejudice, and remand the case to the trial court to determine THR's reasonable and necessary attorney's fees and costs.

         Background[1]

         CABF alleges that during the summer of 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Hospital Association, and Dallas County Health and Human Services Department warned THR, the owner and operator of Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, Texas ("Hospital"), there was an imminent threat of a domestic outbreak of the Ebola virus and the Hospital needed to implement measures to care for infected patients to prevent the disease from spreading. The Hospital "negligently failed to heed the warnings" and did not provide its nurses with the necessary training, instruction, and protective equipment to prevent the spread of the disease. THR only provided nominal training and protection against Ebola to its staff.

         A patient with the Ebola virus, Thomas Duncan, was admitted to the Hospital in the summer of 2014. Amber Vinson, a nurse at the Hospital, attended to Duncan until his death. After Duncan's death, the Hospital assured Vinson and other nurses they were not at risk for contracting Ebola and "they were free to intermingle with family, friends, and the public at large, despite the nurses' exposure to the dangerously contagious disease." Vinson subsequently traveled to Ohio where she visited CABF, a bridal shop in Akron, to select a dress for her upcoming wedding. After Vinson returned to Dallas, she experienced symptoms of, and was diagnosed with, Ebola. Because Vinson shopped in CABF's store, the health authorities in Ohio mandated CABF close the store for cleaning. When it reopened, CABF was unable to "dispel the perceived Ebola risk and stigma" and the store closed permanently. CABF sued THR for negligence alleging that THR failed to:

1. act with ordinary care;
2. recognize the likelihood and appreciate the danger of the Ebola virus coming to its hospitals;
3. develop and implement policies and procedures on how to respond to the presence of the Ebola virus in the patient population;
4. ensure that all health care providers were trained on policies and procedures on how to recognize, appreciate, contain and treat the Ebola virus in the patient population;
5. train nurses on proper protection from Ebola;
6. ensure that the hospitals have appropriate personal protective equipment;
7. notify the appropriate authorities and employ qualified people to manage the Ebola patients;
8. instruct and properly warn its nurses about the dangers of travel and interacting with the public following potential exposure to the Ebola virus; and
9. protect the public from foreseeable harm when it unnecessarily exposed its nurses to the Ebola virus in an unsafe manner and failed to prevent or even warn the exposed ...

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