Southeast Texas Record

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Man's failure to amend complaint results in dismissal of lawsuit over loss of his unborn child

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Nov 14, 2019

Medical malpractice 05

A man’s failure to timely file an amended complaint in his lawsuit against The Mental Health & Mental Retardation Authority of Harris County, now known as The Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD, and one of its employees led to an appeals court affirming the case’s dismissal on Oct. 29.

In his lawsuit, Paul E. Archie claimed the defendant, along with employee Melissa Gonzales, failed to properly treat Archie's wife’s mental illness, which he said resulted in their unborn child’s passing. The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas affirmed a dismissal from a lower court after Archie did not follow instructions to file an amended complaint in response to the center’s special exceptions that pointed out issues with Archie’s suit.

“Archie contends that the trial court abused its discretion in granting the center’s motion to dismiss without affording him the opportunity to mend his defective petition," a three-judge panel determined. "We disagree.”  

Justice Gordon Goodman

The judges noted that the lower court did in fact allow Archie the chance to change his petition when it sustained the center’s exceptions on Jan. 25, 2018, and told Archie to file an amended petition by Feb. 24, 2018. 

“This 30-day period afforded Archie the opportunity to amend," the court's decision stated. "But Archie failed to avail himself of the opportunity.”

The panel also disagreed with Archie’s argument that the lower court erred when it did not rule on Archie’s motion for an extension to respond to the special exceptions. The judges pointed out that because Archie did not “set the motion for submission,” he cannot blame the lower court for not actually ruling on it. 

On top of that, when Archie requested a motion for extension, the center reset the hearing on its special exceptions, giving Archie more time to file a response.

Rather than filing the petition by the lower court's deadline of Feb. 24, 2018, Archie informed the court on April 27, 2018, that he would file an amended petition around Aug. 6, 2018. On Aug. 7, 2018, he filed a motion asking for an extension, and on Oct. 8, 2018, the center filed a motion to dismiss, to which Archie never responded.

Archie instead filed a second motion for an extension to file an amended petition on Oct. 24, 2018, and the lower court dismissed the case on Nov. 1, 2018.

Justice Gordon Goodman authored the opinion. Justices Russell Lloyd and Sarah Beth Landau concurred. 

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