SE Texas Record

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Dismissed: Lawsuit against University of Texas Medical Branch filed by widowed husband

By Charmaine Little | Jan 15, 2020


The University of Texas Medical Branch At Galveston won its plea to the jurisdiction in a medical-malpractice wrongful-death case.

The Fourteenth Court of Appeals reversed the 122nd District Court in Galveston County’s ruling that denied UTMB’s plea for jurisdiction in Jayson Crawford’s lawsuit. He sued individually and as administrator of The Estate of Tracy Crawford, who is deceased. UTMB filed the appeal, questioning the lower court’s jurisdiction, alleging that Mr. Crawford lawsuit isn’t within the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of immunity for personal injury and death caused by the use of tangible personal property.

“Because the gravamen of Crawford’s complaint is that the diagnosis and treatment of decedent Tracy Crawford were delayed by UTMB’s negligent failure to obtain and act upon intangible information, the trial court reversibly erred in denying UTMB’s plea and motion to dismiss,” wrote Justice Tracy Christopher as she reversed the ruling against UTMB. Justices Ken Wise and Meagan Hassan concurred. “We further conclude that no repleading can bring the claims within the Act’s ambit.”

The judges also determined that Mr. Crawfod’s claim is ultimately erred because the foundation of his lawsuit is that UTMB didn’t use the information it could have via a blood test that his wife underwent before she passed. So, his claim is really about the hospital’s alleged failure to not use intangible information, not the actual use of tangible personal property. A medical test result is not a tangible personal property, but instead intangible information.

And the act in question doesn’t waive immunity for a medical provider like UTMB’s failure to interpret information. Because of this, the appeals court remanded the case, instructing the lower court dismiss it.

Mr. Crawford’s lawsuit stems from Mrs. Crawford’s experience in UTMB’s emergency room. She came to the ER stating that she was suffering chest pains and shortness of breath that began just before she got there. After a series of tests that failed to point out Mrs. Crawfod’s issue, her pain continued, and a blood sample was collected. Before the lab issued those results, Mrs. Crawford had a second electrocardiogram, which showed she had an acute myocardial infarction. She was transferred to the cardiac catheterization lab and by then her blood levels showed she had high troponin levels to the say the least. The cardiac catheterization proved that her anterior descending artery was blocked. While doctors removed the clots and put in a stent, her heart damage rose to a cardiogenic shock, and she died five days later. Mr. Crawford sued UTMB and the physician involved for medical malpractice, stating that they failed to timely diagnose her, which could have saved her life. The lower court denied UTMB”s plea to the jurisdiction and the hospital subsequently filed the appeal.

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