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Maypole v. Acadian Ambulance Service, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

August 21, 2019

GARY LEW MAYPOLE, SR., ET AL., Appellants
v.
ACADIAN AMBULANCE SERVICE, INC. ET AL., Appellees

          On Appeal from the 44th Judicial District Court Dallas County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. DC-17-11335

          Before Justices Bridges, Partida-Kipness, and Carlyle

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DAVID L. BRIDGES JUSTICE.

         Gary Lew Maypole, Sr., individually and as personal representative of the estate of Gary Lew Maypole II, and Tamara Jean Maypole as next friend of H.K.M. and D.T.M. (the Maypoles) appeal the trial court's traditional summary judgment in favor of Acadian Ambulance Service, Inc. and Acadian Ambulance Service of Texas, LLC (Acadian). In a single issue, the Maypoles argue Acadian did not conclusively establish their claims were barred by the statute of limitations. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         On August 30, 2017, the Maypoles filed their original petition alleging negligence, wrongful death, and survival claims against Acadian, the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano, and Baylor Scott & White Health. The petition alleged Gary was admitted to a monitored bed at the Texas Regional Medical Center in Sunnyvale, Texas, on July 12, 2015, after presenting to their emergency department for shortness of breath due to exacerbation of his heart failure. Gary's condition deteriorated, and his transfer was arranged to Baylor for surgery evaluation. On July 20, 2015, Acadian transported Gary to Baylor ICU where "he was transitioned from Acadian critical care equipment to Baylor equipment." Gary suffered cardiac arrest but was resuscitated; however, he suffered an anoxic brain injury that precluded cardiac surgery. Gary's family subsequently withdrew life support, and he was pronounced dead on July 23, 2015.

         On October 16, 2017, Acadian filed an answer alleging, among other things, that the Maypoles' claims were barred by the statute of limitations, and the Maypoles were not entitled to a seventy-five-day tolling of limitations provided by sections 74.051 and 74.052 of the civil practice and remedies code. On October 31, 2017, Acadian filed a traditional motion for summary judgment asserting (1) the statute of limitations accrued on July 20, 2015; (2) on June 12, 2017, the Maypoles sent correspondence to Acadian informing Acadian of counsel's representation and providing a document entitled "HIPAA AUTHORIZATION TO DISCLOSE PROTECTED HEALTH INFORMATION"; (3) on July 11, 2017, the Maypoles again provided Acadian with a copy of the HIPAA medical authorization; (4) the HIPAA medical authorization was materially incomplete and deficient because it failed to comply with the requirements of section 74.052(c) of the civil practice and remedies code; (5) on August 30, 2017, forty-one days after the statute of limitations had run, the Maypoles filed suit against Acadian; and (6) the Maypoles' failure to provide a statutorily compliant medical authorization within the limitations period therefore led to the Maypoles' claims being time-barred.

         On February 5, 2018, the Maypoles non-suited Baylor and Scott & White, leaving Acadian as the only defendant. On March 5, 2018, the Maypoles filed a response in which they asserted their medical authorization was "substantially compliant" with sections 74.051 and 74.052 of the civil practice and remedies code; the authorization did not prevent Acadian from obtaining Gary's medical records; all known healthcare providers were included in the authorization; and this Court's decision in Mock v. Presbyterian Hospital of Plano, 379 S.W.3d 391, 394-95 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2012, pet. denied), supported the Maypoles' claim that their authorization was sufficient to support the tolling of limitations. On April 10, 2018, the trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Acadian on the grounds that the Maypoles' claims were barred by limitations. This appeal followed.

         In a single issue, the Maypoles argue Acadian did not conclusively establish their claims were barred by the statute of limitations.

         We review de novo the trial court's ruling on a motion for summary judgment. Valence Operating Co. v. Dorsett, 164 S.W.3d 656, 661 (Tex. 2005). In a traditional motion for summary judgment, the movant must establish that no genuine issue of material fact exists and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c). The motion must state the specific grounds relied upon for summary judgment. Id. A genuine issue of material fact exists if the nonmovant produces more than a scintilla of probative evidence regarding the challenged element. Ford Motor Co. v. Ridgway, 135 S.W.3d 598, 600 (Tex. 2004). A defendant moving for traditional summary judgment must conclusively negate at least one essential element of each of the plaintiff's causes of action or conclusively establish all elements of an affirmative defense. Sci. Spectrum, Inc. v. Martinez, 941 S.W.2d 910, 911 (Tex. 1997). When reviewing a summary judgment, we take as true all evidence favorable to the nonmovant and resolve any doubts in the nonmovant's favor. Valence Operating Co., 164 S.W.3d at 661.

         Health care liability claims have a two-year statute of limitations. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.251(a). The statute of limitations commences from (1) the occurrence of the breach or tort; (2) the last date of the relevant course of treatment; or (3) the last date of the relevant hospitalization. Mitchell v. Methodist Hosp., 376 S.W.3d 833, 835 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2012, pet. denied). There is no dispute that the Maypoles filed suit more than two years after their cause of action accrued. The question that is dispositive of this appeal is whether the medical authorization form attached to the Maypoles' presuit notice was effective to toll the limitations period.

         A claimant can obtain a seventy-five-day tolling period by complying with certain notice requirements found in Chapter 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. The two-year limitations period is tolled for a period of seventy-five days if the claimant provides both the notice and medical authorization form required by Chapter 74. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.051(a), (c); see also Carreras v. Marroquin, 339 S.W.3d 68, 74 (Tex. 2011) ("[F]or the statute of limitations to be tolled in a health care liability claim pursuant to Chapter 74, a plaintiff must provide both the statutorily required notice and the statutorily required authorization form."). The notice requirements provide, in relevant part:

Any person or his authorized agent asserting a health care liability claim shall give written notice of such claim by certified mail, return receipt requested, to each physician or health care provider against whom such claim is being made at least 60 days before the filing of a suit in any court of this state based upon a health care liability claim. The notice must be accompanied by the authorization form for release of protected health information as required under Section 74.052.

Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 74.051(a). Section 74.052 prescribes the "Authorization Form for Release of Protected Health Information," stating:

Notice of a health care claim under Section 74.051 must be accompanied by a medical authorization in the form specified by this section. Failure to provide this authorization along with the notice of health care claim shall abate all further proceedings against the physician or health care provider receiving the notice until 60 days following ...

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