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Landa v. Lira

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

May 30, 2019

MARIA LANDA, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF ELIZABETH LANDA, DECEASED, Appellant,
v.
NOE LIRA, M.D. AND JUAN CACERAS, M.D, Appellees.

          On appeal from the 319th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Longoria and Chew [1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID WELLINGTON CHEW, JUSTICE

         This case considers the stay of discovery provisions of § 74.351 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code involving healthcare liability claims. Appellant Maria Landa, individually and on behalf of the estate of her daughter Elizabeth Landa, appeals a no-evidence summary judgment in favor of appellees Juan Caceras, M.D., and Noe Lira, M.D. In a single issue, Mrs. Landa asserts the trial court erred in granting appellees' no-evidence summary judgment motions because: (1) she did not have adequate time for discovery pursuant to a discovery stay; and (2) she received inadequate notice of the summary judgment hearing. We affirm.

         I. Background

         Elizabeth Landa was admitted to Christus Spohn Hospital to undergo a hysterectomy on June 4, 2012. Dr. Caceras, with the assistance of Dr. Lira, performed the surgery. Elizabeth suffered complications and died in the hospital on July 22, 2012.

         On September 13, 2014, Mrs. Landa filed suit against appellees asserting they were negligent in performing the surgery and failed to timely diagnose Elizabeth post-surgery.

         On January 21, 2015, Mrs. Landa timely filed a § 74.351 expert report and curriculum vitae of an obstetrician/gynecologist (expert report). See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.351(a). Drs. Caceras and Lira filed their objections to the expert report on February 11 and 12, 2015, respectively.

         The trial court never ruled on the adequacy of Mrs. Landa's expert report, and the doctors never moved for a dismissal under § 74.351.

         On March 31, 2015, Dr. Caceras served Mrs. Landa with his first request for production and interrogatories; Mrs. Landa timely responded to the discovery request but did not respond to a request for designation of her expert witnesses.

         At Mrs. Landa's request, a docket control conference was held on July 15, 2016, and on September 16, 2016, more than two years after the lawsuit was filed, an "Agreed Order Granting Special Setting and Docket Control Order" (DCO) was filed with the trial court. The DCO set November 17, 2016 as the deadline for Mrs. Landa to identify a testifying expert witness and provide relevant reports; the appellees' deadline to do the same was December 28, 2016. The trial court did not sign the DCO until November 21, 2016, but that fact is inapposite to our decision here. The DCO also set a discovery deadline for March 17, 2017 and a trial date for April 18, 2017.

         The record before us provides additional litigation chronology.

• On November 2, 2016, the appellees deposed Mrs. Landa.
• On December 28, 2016, Dr. Caceres designated a testifying expert in compliance with the DCO. Dr. Lira did ...

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