Court of Appeals of Texas, Third District, Austin
Seton Family of Hospitals d/b/a Seton Medical Center Williamson, Appellant
Tomaurz White as Administrator of the Estate of Latoya Jones and as Next Friend of A.W., A Minor; Gale Machon Jones; and Clarence Jones, Appellees
THE PROBATE COURT NO. 1 OF TRAVIS COUNTY NO.
C-1-PB-18-001576, THE HONORABLE GUY S. HERMAN, JUDGE
Chief Justice Rose, Justices Triana and Smith
D. Triana, Justice.
Family of Hospitals d/b/a Seton Medical Center Williamson
("Seton") appeals from the trial court's order
denying its motion to dismiss the health-care-liability
claims of plaintiff Tomaurz White as Administrator of the
Estate of Latoya Jones and as next friend of A.W., a Minor,
and plaintiff-intervenors Gale Machon Jones and Clarence
Jones ("Plaintiffs"). In two issues on appeal,
Seton asserts that Plaintiffs' statutorily required
expert reports, see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code
§ 74.351, were deficient and that, consequently, Seton
was entitled to dismissal of the Plaintiffs' claims
against it and to its attorney's fees. We will affirm the
trial court's order.
allege that Latoya Jones gave birth to A.W. at Seton Medical
Center-Williamson on June 14, 2016, and was released from the
hospital on June 17, 2016. Two days later, Jones returned to
Seton complaining of fever, headache, dysuria, and elevated
blood pressure. She was evaluated and discharged from the
hospital that same day. The next morning, Jones was found
non-responsive in her bed, and she died on June 22, 2016.
filed suit against Seton, other health-care entities, and
multiple physicians who had treated Jones, alleging that they
were negligent in their evaluation and treatment of Jones and
that this negligence was the proximate cause of her
death. The petition included the following
Through the substandard treatment of Latoya Jones,
Defendants, and each of them, either individually and/or by
their agents, representatives and/or employees, failed to
adhere to the applicable standards of medical care. . . .
. . . .
Upon information and belief, at all relevant times, the
healthcare workers treating Latoya Jones during the relevant
time period described herein, were agents or employees or
servants of Defendants, and each of them. The substandard
treatment of Latoya Jones was performed within the course and
scope of their duties each of the Defendants. Therefore, in
addition to acts of medical negligence, Defendants are
vicariously liable for the negligence of these healthcare
workers through the doctrine of respondeat superior and all
other applicable vicarious liability doctrines, at law and
equity, including ostensible agency or apparent authority, if
later served two expert reports on the defendants, one
related to the conduct of Dr. Timothy Leeds, the assistant
surgeon who had helped deliver A.W., and the other related to
the conduct of Dr. Laura Pittman, the emergency room
physician who had evaluated and treated Jones upon her return
to Seton. Seton filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the
expert reports failed to implicate Seton in the alleged
negligence of the physicians. The trial court held a hearing
on the motion and later denied the motion to dismiss. This
interlocutory appeal followed. See id. §
74 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, also known as the
Texas Medical Liability Act [TMLA], requires
health-care-liability claimants to serve an expert report
upon each defendant not later than 120 days after that
defendant's answer is filed." Abshire v.
Christus Health Se. Tex., 563 S.W.3d 219, 223 (Tex.
2018) (citing Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §
74.351(a)). A "core purpose" of the expert-report
requirement is to "identify and eliminate frivolous
health care liability claims expeditiously, while preserving
those of potential merit." Samlowski v. Wooten,
332 S.W.3d 404, 410 (Tex. 2011). "An adequate expert
report is how the statute distinguishes between"
frivolous and meritorious claims. Id. at 411.
expert report is sufficient under the Act if it 'provides
a fair summary of the expert's opinions . . . regarding
applicable standards of care, the manner in which the care
rendered . . . failed to meet the standards, and the causal
relationship between the failure and the injury.'"
Abshire, 563 S.W.3d at 223 (quoting Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code § 74.351(r)(6)). "Importantly, the
trial court need only find that the report constitutes a
'good faith effort' to comply with the statutory
requirements." Id. (quoting Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code § 74.351(1)). "To constitute a
'good-faith effort,' the report must provide enough
information to fulfill two purposes: (1) it must inform the
defendant of the specific conduct the plaintiff has called
into question, and (2) it must provide a basis for the trial
court to conclude that the claims have merit." Bowie
Mem'l Hosp. v. Wright, 79 S.W.3d 48, 52 (Tex. 2002).
"In analyzing a report's sufficiency under this
standard, we consider only the information contained within
the four corners of the report." Abshire, 563
S.W.3d at 223; see Baty v. Futrell, 543 S.W.3d 689,
693-94 (Tex. 2018).
review a trial court's ruling on the adequacy of an
expert report under the TMLA for an abuse of discretion.
Abshire, 563 S.W.3d at 223; American
Transitional Care Ctrs. of Tex., Inc. v. Palacios, 46
S.W.3d 873, 877 (Tex. 2001). A trial court abuses its
discretion when it "renders an arbitrary and
unreasonable decision lacking support in the facts or
circumstances of the case" or "acts in an arbitrary