When is an employee’s claim for injuries against its nonsubscriber employer occurring in the course and scope of employment a health care liability claim?  According to the Supreme Court of Texas, when the employer is a health care provider. 

In Texas West Oaks Hosp. v. Williams, Williams was employed by a nonsubscriber psychiatric hospital.  Williams was injured by a patient of the facility.  Williams sued his employer for the injuries sustained in course and scope of his employment under theories of negligent training, supervision, risk-mitigation, and safety.  The employer moved to dismiss arguing that Williams’ claims were health care liability claims under the Texas Medical Liability Act.  The TMLA requires a plaintiff filing a health care liability claim to submit an expert report within 120 days of filing suit to maintain the action.  Williams did not file an expert report and the trial court dismissed the claim. The Supreme Court of Texas granted review to determine whether the claims of an employee against his employer, both of whom are health care providers, alleging injuries from the negligence of the employer, constitute health care liability claims subject to the procedures of the TMLA. 

In holding that the employee’s claims for injuries against his nonsubcriber employer were health care claims rather than claims for on-the-job injuries, the court was more persuaded by the character of the plaintiff’s claims (i.e., lack of safety) than the relationship between the parties (i.e., employer/employee).  Because the lawsuit alleged that the hospital defendant deviated from accepted standards of safety, the court concluded that the TMLA reached Williams’ claims even though he was not receiving any treatment nor was he a patient when the injuries occurred. Because the TMLA governed the employee’s claims against the hospital, the employee had to satisfy all of the procedural requirements of the TMLA in bringing his claim.  Because he failed to timely file an expert report, his claim was barred.  Three justices joined in a dissent that argued the majority went to far in transforming an employee’s personal injury claims against its nonsubscriber employer into health care liability claims.  Full copies of the majority and dissenting opinions can be linked to below.  

Majority opinion here.

Dissenting opinion here

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