Marilyn Tennissen Nov. 5, 2014, 10:59am


Justices for the appeals court in Beaumont recently affirmed a trial court’s ruling that a slip-and-fall case against a hospital is not a health care liability claim, but the same as any slip-and-fall suit against a landlord.

In Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas v Sherry Gail McCoy, on appeal from Jefferson County 58th District Court, the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals delivered its opinion on Oct. 16.

As Justice Hollis Horton wrote, this was an interlocutory appeal in which Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas asked the Ninth District to revisit its decision in Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital v Guillory.

In that case, the appeals court held that a “garden-variety” slip-and-fall case involving a visitor on the hospital’s premises was not a health care liability claim requiring an expert report. Expert reports are required in cases subject to the Texas Medical Liability Act.

“We hold that the trial court properly denied the hospital’s motion to dismiss, and we affirm the trial court’s order,” Horton wrote.

Case History

While at Baptist Hospital to visit a patient, Sherry Gail McCoy claims she slipped and fell on food that she alleges had been spilled on the floor. She sued the hospital, claiming the hospital was aware of the hazard and should have either cleaned the food from the floor or warned her of the hazard.

About five months after McCoy sued, Baptist Hospital asked the trial court to dismiss her suit. The motion to dismiss alleges that McCoy failed to serve the hospital with an expert report within 120 days of the date it had answered.

Although the hospital’s motion notes the court’s decision in Guillory, it alleged the decision “ignored the Supreme Court analysis of the requirements for a claim of departure from safety standards.”

However, the hospital never directed the trial court nor the appeals court to any health care standards governing a hospital’s maintenance of its floors, the appeals court’s decision states.

In response to the hospital’s motion, McCoy asserted that “no nexus exists” between the standards governing her claim and “accepted standards of health care.”

“According to her response, her claim has nothing to with healthcare, but rather arises from the responsibilities the hospital has a landlord,” Horton wrote.

McCoy also stated that when she fell, she was not a patient nor at the hospital to seek medical care.

The trial court, relying on the Ninth District’s opinion in Guillory, denied the hospital’s motion.

Baptist then appealed, contending that Guillory was wrongly decided.

“But, for the same reasons that we fully explained in Guillory, a garden-variety slip-and-fall case where the health care provider failed to show that the case implicated safety standards applying to health care,” the decision states. “McCoy’s claims as pled do not implicate healthcare standards.”

In McCoy’s case, her claim does not appear to be a health care liability claim governed by the TMLA, Horton wrote.

“Based on the allegations of McCoy’s complaint and the information in her response, the duty the hospital owed to McCoy while she was at the hospital is no different than the duty imposed on other businesses that allow visitors to enter their premises,” Horton wrote.

Trial Court Case No. A194-893
Appellate Court Case No. 09-14-00227-CV

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