Court rules expert reports were deficient but possibly curable in suit against Houston Methodist-Willowbrook

By Charmaine Little | Sep 24, 2018

HOUSTON – On Aug. 16, the Court of Appeals for the 1st District of Texas reversed an order from a trial court that dismissed a health care liability claim filed against a Houston hospital.

Nancy Carmen Curnel and her husband, Ronald Curnel, had appealed from the 55th District Court in Harris County after the court said their expert opinions were deficient in their case against Houston Methodist Hospital-Willowbrook and one of its physicians, Michael Estansi. The appeals court disagreed with the lower court and said the expert reports were possibily curable. It reversed and remanded the district court’s ruling.

According to the ruling, the Curnels sued the hospital after Estansi allegedly misdiagnosed Nancy Curnel with viral hepatitis. She later received a biopsy where a radiologist pricked one of her arteries, which led to serious injuries, the ruling states. 

The Curnels provided expert reporters gastroenterologist Dr. Todd Sheer and a registered nurse Julie Fomenko. The lower court determined the expert reports were insufficient. It also denied their petition for a chance to remedy any of the deficiencies, and ultimately granted Methodist and Estansi’s motion to dismiss their case with prejudice and denied the Curnel’s motion for a reconsideration that included amended expert reports.

The plaintiffs raised three issues and said the lower court shouldn’t have granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss, denied their request for an extension and denied their motion for reconsideration.

The appeals court pointed out the purpose of expert reports isn’t necessarily to prove a case, but to “provide notice of the conduct forming the basis of the” claim. 

While it determined the lower court didn’t err when it said the reports were inadequate, the appeals court did disagree with the decision to deny the Curnels' request for an extension. 

“Despite their deficiencies, these reports contain the opinions of qualified experts that the Curnels’ claims had merit and implicated the conduct of Methodist and Estansi; they qualify as objective good faith efforts to comply with the statute,” the appeals court said. 

It pointed out the lower court never let the plaintiffs fix the inadequate reports.

Justice Harvey Brown authored the opinion. The panel consisted of Justices Terry Jennings, Jane Bland and Harvey G. Brown.

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