SE Texas Record

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Saudi Diplomat's suit against hospital set to be heard in Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals

By Anna Aguillard | Jan 3, 2016


HOUSTON – After filing suit in March of 2015, a Saudi diplomat is standing by his complaints that a hospital employee allegedly leaked confidential health information and an alleged hospital debt to the consulate.

Hozam Alajmi filed suit against Methodist Hospital in the United States Court for the Southern District of Texas Houston Division. The complaint alleges that an employee of the hospital, Summer Dajani, sent a letter regarding a 2011 treatment to the Sultan A. Al Angari, the Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Houston, stating that Alajmi and his two sons owed the hospital $31,112.87.

According to the suit, the hospital bills were supposed to be invoiced to the Saudi Arabian Embassy’s Armed Forces Office, which guaranteed payments until Jan. 24, 2012.

Alajmi claims that the debt is false, and that Dajani was conspiring with someone to intentionally harm Alajmi. Additionally, Alajmi is suing the Hospital for sending unauthorized medical information to the Consul General’s office, when it was only authorized to send the information to the Armed Foces Office.

The suit says that fiscal irresponsibility is looked at with extreme disfavor by the conservative Muslim culture of Saudi Arabia, and Alajmi claims that the alleged false debt tarnished his reputation. The lawsuit says that he lost his job, had his salary suspended for more than 10 months, and lost employment benefits. Additionally, Alajmi claims mental anguish, embarrassment, and humiliation.

In response to this suit, Methodist Hospital filed a Motion to Dismissal in June, arguing that Alajmi “failed to serve the defendant with an expert report within 120 days following the defendant’s answer.” Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 74.351 requires for all health care liability claims.

The Motion to Dismiss said that “because Alajmi’s case is premised on an alleged breach of the duty of confidentiality arising from the patient-health care provider relationship, it is a health care liability claim.” The defendants argued that dismissal was required as a matter of law.

However, the court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, deciding that the procedural expert report requirement, while required in Texas, is not required by federal courts, and therefore should not be applied.

“It is the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that should be applied. Fifteen district courts have followed the same decision,” said Alajmi’s lawyer, Mehdi Cherkaoui during the motion hearing.

In a follow-up of the suit, Cherkaoui told the Southeast Texas Record that Alajmi is seeking the same amount in damages as in his original complaint, $5 million.

According to Cherkaoui, there has been no settlement thus far, and the case will be heard by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. If it goes to trial, it will be heard by a jury.

“My client insists on having this case ruled upon on the merits. The reason why we’re having these motions, and these motions to dismiss on technicality is because [the defendants] don’t want to face the case on the merits. Case on the merits is a clear violation of HIPAA by the Methodist Hospital,” Cherkaoui said during the motion hearing.

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