State Supreme Court Reverses State Appellate Court in Assisted Living Case with Multiple Expert Reports

The Texas Supreme Court has held that a plaintiff satisfied the requirements of the state’s Medical Liability Act. The plaintiff offered multiple expert reports in a case alleging that an assisted living facility and other medical providers chose not to timely discover a resident’s missing dental bridge.

Betty Hathcock lived at Village of Lake Highlands, an assisted living facility. She reported the loss of her dental bridge to the facility’s staff members, who searched the facility but did not find it. It was later discovered the bridge was lodged in her trachea when an x-ray was done. She had developed respiratory symptoms that worsened over the course of an evening. Unfortunately, Hathcock died shortly after the discovery of the dental bridge.

Hathcock’s daughter sued the assisted living facility claiming failure to timely discover the missing bridge. To support the lawsuit, the Hathcock family filed four separate expert reports to satisfy the medical liability statute’s requirements, including one report discussing the medical cause of Hathcock’s death. The defendant moved to dismiss the case; the trial judge denied. The appellate court reversed the trial judge, and the case was taken up to the Texas Supreme Court for further consideration.

The state high court reversed the lower appellate court, finding that the statute authorizes a plaintiff to use multiple expert reports to satisfy any of the law’s requirements. In this case, the Hathcock family offered a physician’s report describing the medical event that led to Hathcock’s death and an assisted living expert’s report discussing the specific standard of care applicable to the defendant assisted living facility when it could not locate Hathcock’s missing dental bridge.

As the court interpreted the two reports together, it concluded that the trial judge could have reasonably decided that the reports constituted a good faith effort to summarize the causal relationship between the defendant’s alleged failure to comply with the standard of care and Hathcock’s injuries and subsequent damages.

Concluding that the expert reports showed the Hathcock family’s case had merit, the Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

The attorneys representing the Hathcock family were Frank Giunta and Francis Gannon.

Miller v. JSC Lake Highlands Operations, 2017 WL 6391215 (Texas, Dec. 15, 2017).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling assisted living lawsuits, wrongful death cases, nursing home abuse cases, nursing home bed sore lawsuits and nursing home negligence cases for individuals, families and their loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence or carelessness of a medical provider for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Cicero, River Grove, Schiller Park, Schaumburg, Des Plaines, Park Ridge, Chicago (Garfield Park, Lawndale, Little Village, Brighton Mark, Marquette Park, Englewood, Gresham, Washington Heights, Washington Park, Jackson Park), Lincolnshire, Skokie, Glenview and Palatine, Ill.

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