Appeals court rules report that connected hospital to newborn's death is sufficient

By Charmaine Little | Mar 15, 2019

BEAUMONT -- An appeals court ruled March 7 that an expert report did meet requirements in a health care liability case against Kingwood Medical Center, as it affirmed a lower court’s denial of the center's motion to dismiss.

Kingwood Medical Center and physician Deborah Hendryx filed the appeal in the Court of Appeals, Ninth District of Texas after the 410th District Court in Montgomery County, denied its motion to dismiss Carolina and Israel Duarte’s lawsuit involving the death of their newborn child. 

Kingwood and Hendryx said the expert report the Duartes provided to back their case didn’t satisfy requirements in the Texas Medical Liability Act. However, the appeals court said since the report and the expert’s resume that came along with it did in fact detail the expert’s qualifications, this was enough for the lower court to determine the requirements were fulfilled. 

Considering this, the appeals court upheld the trial court’s denial of the center's and Hendryx’s attempt to get the case dismissed.

Justice Hollis Horton   Texas State Directory

Based on the act, to be considered a fit expert, one has to actually be practicing medicine at the time of the testimony or report, be knowledgeable about what’s considered the accepted standard of care and has to have sufficient training or experience in these standards..

“Currently, [the expert] consults on matters involving newborn babies, a field that is directly relevant to the issues that are involved in the Duartes’ case,” the appeals court ruled. “We conclude that the trial court was not required to rigidly apply the qualifications test by assuming that [the expert] consults only with lawyers and to assume that he does not consult with doctors or other health care providers on matters involving perinatal medicine.”

The report also serves as a direct connection between Isabel Duarte’s treatment she received at Kingwood and the death of her child.

Justice Hollis Horton wrote the opinion. Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Charles Kreger concurred.

The Duartes filed the case after their son died just six hours after birth. An expert report said the baby didn’t have enough oxygen or blood “when he was born in prolonged ‘breech presentation,’” according to the lawsuit. It also said that Hendryx and the medical center violated standards of care that hospitals and doctors should show patients when they arrive to the hospital by ambulance, like Isabel Duarte did, to deliver her child. They sued two years later. 

They alleged in their first lawsuit that Kingwood Medical Center and Hendryx were negligent when Isabel Duarte had a vaginal birth instead of a C-section. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, questioning how qualified the expert is to speak on the lawsuit. His background and resume include being licensed to practice in Tennessee, working in obstetrics and gynecology with a speciality in maternal fetal medicine. He is certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology and has written and co-authored two books in these fields.

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