AMANDA MARIE COCI AND HEART OF TEXAS EMS, INC., D/B/A HEART OF TEXAS EMS, Appellants
APRIL DOWER, Appellee
Appeal from the 35th District Court Brown County, Texas Trial
Court Cause No. CV1801020.
consists of: Bailey, C.J., Stretcher, J., and Wright, S.C.J.
WRIGHT SENIOR CHIEF JUSTICE.
an accelerated interlocutory appeal in a personal injury
lawsuit that April Dower filed against Amanda Marie Coci and
Heart of Texas EMS, Inc., d/b/a Heart of Texas EMS. In the
trial court, Appellants claimed that Dower's lawsuit
constituted a health care liability claim and moved to
dismiss Dower's suit because she failed to serve an
expert report and curriculum vitae pursuant to Section
74.351(a) of the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA).
See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. §
74.351 (West 2017). The trial court denied the motion, and
this interlocutory appeal followed. We affirm.
lawsuit, Dower alleged that she was injured in a single
vehicle accident that occurred while her minor daughter was
being taken from Abilene Regional Medical Center to Cook
Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, where the child
was to undergo a medical procedure. Dower's daughter was
being transported in a Heart of Texas ambulance. Amanda Marie
Coci, a Heart of Texas EMS employee, was the driver of the
ambulance. Dower accompanied her daughter in the ambulance;
Dower was neither a patient nor a recipient of any care.
While en route, the ambulance left the roadway and collided
with the protective barrier in the median between the
eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate Highway 20.
sued Appellants for negligence and gross negligence, seeking
damages for injuries she allegedly suffered as a result of
the incident. Dower's daughter is not a party to this
suit and did not assert any claims or seek any damages. Dower
alleged that Coci fell asleep while driving, which allegedly
caused the ambulance to leave the roadway and strike the
negligence cause of action, Dower alleged that Coci (1)
failed to keep a proper outlook, (2) failed to turn the
ambulance to avoid the collision, (3) failed to give adequate
warning, (4) failed to adequately use the brakes, (5) drove
at an unsafe speed, (6) failed to maintain a safe distance,
(7) failed to maintain a single lane, and (8) failed to
monitor oncoming traffic.
issue in this appeal is whether Dower's claims constitute
health care liability claims under the TMLA. If so, then
Dower was required to serve an expert report and curriculum
vitae in accordance with Section 74.351(a) of the TMLA.
TMLA defines a health care liability claim as:
[A] cause of action against a health care provider or
physician for treatment, lack of treatment, or other claimed
departure from accepted standards of medical care, or health
care, or safety or professional or administrative services
directly related to health care, which proximately results in
injury to or death of a claimant, whether the claimant's
claim or cause of action sounds in tort or contract.
Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 74.001(a)(13). If Dower's
claims constitute health care liability claims, then the
trial court should have granted the motion filed by
Appellants and dismissed Dower's claims with prejudice
because she did not file or serve an expert report within 120
days of Appellants filing their original answer. See
id. § 74.351(b).
a claim is a health care liability claim under the TMLA is a
question of law that we review de novo. Scott v.
Weems, 575 S.W.3d 357, 363 (Tex. 2019). In our review,
we focus on the underlying nature of the cause of action, not
the label given to the claim in the pleadings. Id.
(explaining that "a party cannot avoid Chapter 74's
requirements and limitations through artful pleading");
see also Tex. W. Oaks Hosp., LP v. Williams, 371
S.W.3d 171, 176 (Tex. 2012) ("In seeking to distinguish
ordinary negligence claims from [health care liability
claims], the heart of these cases lies in the nature of the
acts or omissions causing claimants' injuries and whether
the events are within the ambit of the legislated scope of
argue that Dower's claims implicate the
"safety" prong of Section 74.001(a)(13). Since
"safety" is not defined by the TMLA, the Texas
Supreme Court defined the common meaning of
"safety" as the "condition of being untouched
by danger; not exposed to danger; secure from danger, harm or
loss." Ross v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp.,
462 S.W.3d 496, 501 (Tex. 2015) (internal quotation marks
omitted). The court further explained that a safety
standards-based claim against a health care provider
constitutes a health care liability claim under the TMLA if
there is "a substantive nexus between the safety
standards allegedly violated and the provision of health
care"; the alleged departure need not actually be
"directly related" to health care. Ross,
462 S.W.3d at 504. In other words, "[t]he pivotal issue
in a safety standards-based claim is whether the standards on
which the claim is based implicate the defendant's duties
as a health care provider, including its duties to provide
for patient safety." Id. at 505.
the line between a safety standards-based claim that is not a
health care liability claim and one that is a health care
liability claim may not always be clear, the court in
Ross identified a nonexclusive list of
considerations that inform a determination as to whether such
a claim is substantively related to ...