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Christus Spohn Health System Corp. v. Gracia

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

August 26, 2019

CHRISTUS SPOHN HEALTH SYSTEM CORPORATION D/B/A CHRISTUS HOSPITAL CORPUS CHRISTI-SHORELINE, Appellant,
v.
JAMIE DANIEL GRACIA AND RACHEL GRACIA, Appellees.

          On appeal from the 214th District Court of Nueces County, Texas.

          Before Chief Justice Contreras and Justices Benavides and Longoria

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          NORA L. LONGORIA JUSTICE.

         This is an interlocutory appeal from an order denying appellant Christus Spohn Health System Corporation d/b/a Christus Hospital Corpus Christi-Shoreline's (Spohn) plea to the jurisdiction. We reverse and render judgment dismissing the case.

         I. Background

         Appellees Jamie Daniel Gracia and Rachel Gracia brought a health care liability claim against Spohn[1] alleging negligence in the post-surgical care and treatment of Jamie. Spohn filed a plea to the jurisdiction asserting that it is a "hospital district management contractor." See Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 285.071. Spohn argued that as a hospital district management contractor, it is entitled to governmental immunity. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.001(3). Spohn urged that the Gracias failed to prove that their claims fell within the waiver of immunity under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) and as such, Spohn is entitled to dismissal. See id. § 101.021. The Gracias filed their response in opposition to Spohn's plea to the jurisdiction arguing that Spohn's contract with Nueces County Hospital District (NCHD) did not include operation of the Christus Hospital Corpus Christi-Shoreline (Shoreline) hospital, where Jamie received his care.

         After hearing argument and reviewing the evidence attached to each parties' pleadings, the trial court denied the plea to the jurisdiction. This interlocutory appeal followed.

         II. Plea to the Jurisdiction

         A. Standard of Review and Applicable Law

         The question of whether a party is entitled to governmental immunity implicates the trial court's subject matter jurisdiction. See Harris Cty. Hosp. Dist., v. Tomball Reg'l Hosp., 283 S.W.3d 838, 842 (Tex. 2009); Tex. Dep't of Parks & Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 226 (Tex. 2004). Whether a trial court has subject matter jurisdiction over a claim is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo. Tomball, 283 S.W.3d at 842.

         Spohn argues that its contractual relationship with NCHD entitles it to immunity pursuant to §§ 285.071 and 285.072 of the health and safety code. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. §§ 285.071, 285.072. It is undisputed that hospital districts are governmental units entitled to immunity, and individuals filing suit against a hospital district must comply with the notice requirements for filing suit against a governmental unit under the TTCA. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 101.001(3); Martinez v. Val Verde Cty. Hosp. Dist., 140 S.W.3d 370, 371 (Tex. 2004). Section 285.071 of the health and safety code defines a "hospital district management contractor" as a "nonprofit corporation, partnership, or sole proprietorship that manages or operates a hospital or provides services under contract with a hospital district that was created by general or special law." Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 285.071. The statute also states that:

A hospital district management contractor in its management or operation of a hospital under a contract with a hospital district is considered a governmental unit for purposes of Chapters 101, 102, and 108, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, and any employee of the contractor is, while performing services under the contract for the benefit of the hospital, an employee of the hospital district for the purpose of Chapters 101, 102, and 108, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.

Id. § 285.072; see also Christus Spohn Health Sys. Corp. v. Ven Huizen, No. 13-10-00400-CV, 2011 WL 1900174, at *2-3 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg May 19, 2011, pet. denied) (mem. op.).

         B. ...


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