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Thornton v. Columbia Medical Center of Plano Subsidiary, L.P.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas

September 12, 2019

GIA THORNTON, INDIVIDUALLY, AS THE REPRESENTATIVE FOR ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES, AND AS AN HEIR AT LAW AND REPRESENTATIVE OF THE ESTATE OF MCQUESTER J. SOLOMON, DECEASED, Appellant
v.
COLUMBIA MEDICAL CENTER OF PLANO SUBSIDIARY, L.P., D/B/A MEDICAL CITY OF PLANO, FORMALLY KNOWN AS MEDICAL CENTER OF PLANO, AND JANE LEE, RN, Appellees

          On Appeal from the 429th Judicial District Court Collin County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 429-00366-2018

          Before Justices Myers, Osborne, and Nowell

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          LANA MYERS, JUSTICE

         This case concerns giving notice of a health care liability claim under section 74.051 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code to toll the statute of limitations for seventy-five days. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 74.051. The issue in this case is to whom the plaintiff must give written notice of the claim when the health care provider is a limited partnership.

         Gia Thornton, individually, as the representative for all wrongful death beneficiaries, and as an heir at law and representative of the Estate of McQuester J. Solomon, deceased, appeals the trial court's order granting the motion for summary judgment of Columbia Medical Center of Plano Subsidiary, L.P., d/b/a Medical City of Plano, f/k/a Medical Center of Plano (Columbia), and Jane Lee, R.N. Thornton brings one issue on appeal contending the trial court erred by granting the motion for summary judgment on the ground that Thornton's lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations had expired. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         BACKGROUND

         In 1997, the hospital was owned by HSP of Texas, Inc. In 1997, HSP merged with Columbia, and HSP ceased to exist.

         Seventeen years after this merger, McQuester J. Solomon was a patient at the hospital, and he died there on November 24, 2015. Thornton asserts she mailed notice of the claim to HSP on November 30, 2016 by mailing it to HSP's registered agent, Prentice Hall Corporation System, Inc. in Austin. However, Thornton states that document has been lost.

         On November 7, 2017, Thornton's attorney mailed notice of the claim addressed to "Medical Center of Plano" at 3901 W. 15th Street, Plano, Texas, 75075, which is the hospital's physical address. The notice was returned to Thornton's attorney's with a label on the envelope stating, "RETURN TO SENDER[, ] REFUSED[, ] UNABLE TO FORWARD." The word "refused" is also handwritten on the envelope.

         On January 25, 2018, two years and sixty-two days after Solomon's death, Thornton filed suit for medical malpractice against "HSP of Texas, Inc. d/b/a Medical Center of Plano and Jane Lee, R.N." On March 13, 2018, Thornton amended her petition, naming appellees, Columbia and Lee, as the defendants. Thornton served Columbia by serving its registered agent, CT Corporation, on March 15, 2018. Lee was not served, but she did file an answer.

         Appellees filed a motion for summary judgment asserting the two-year statute of limitations expired, at the latest, on November 24, 2017, and Thornton did not file suit until sixty-two days later. Appellees also argued that Thornton's giving notice of the claim to HSP did not constitute notice to Columbia. Thornton filed a response to the motion for summary judgment, asserting the November 7, 2017 notice to "Medical Center of Plano" was sufficient to comply with section 74.051 and toll the statute of limitations. The trial court granted appellees' motion for summary judgment and ordered that Thornton take nothing on her claims.

         SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         In her sole issue on appeal, Thornton contends the trial court erred by granting appellees' motion for summary judgment on the ground that Thornton filed suit after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The standard for reviewing a traditional summary judgment is well established. See McAfee, Inc. v. Agilysys, Inc., 316 S.W.3d 820, 825 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2010, no pet.). The movant has the burden of showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Tex.R.Civ.P. 166a(c). In deciding whether a disputed material fact issue exists precluding summary judgment, evidence favorable to the nonmovant will be taken as true. In re Estate of Berry, 280 S.W.3d 478, 480 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.). Every reasonable inference must be indulged in favor of the nonmovant and any doubts resolved in its favor. City of Keller v. Wilson, 168 S.W.3d 802, 824 (Tex. 2005). We review a summary judgment de novo to determine whether a party's right to prevail is established as a matter of law. Dickey v. Club Corp., 12 S.W.3d 172, 175 (Tex. App.-Dallas 2000, pet. denied).

         STATUTE ...


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