Slips and Falls in Hospitals: When Do They Constitute “Medical Malpractice”?

Reddic v. East Texas Medical Center Regional Health Care System, — S.W.3d —, 2015 WL 6558270 (Tex. 2015)

This case features a visitor who filed a negligence suit against the hospital. The suit alleged that the visitor slipped and fell in a hospital’s reception area on a mat saturated with water. The hospital moved to dismiss the suit for failure to timely serve an expert report pursuant to the Texas Medical Liability Act (TMLA). The visitor responded that TMLA only applies to actions alleging medical malpractice and does not apply to regular negligence suits such as hers.

The Texas Supreme Court agreed with the visitor. This decision relied on the Court’s prior decision, Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, 462 S.W.3d 496, 504-05; 2015 WL 2009744 (Tex. 2015), which I analyzed here.

Specifically, the Court ruled that floor care in an area frequented by persons seeking or receiving medical attention is related to the provision of healthcare, but does not constitute “health care” in and of itself. Whether it falls into the “health care” definition depends on the seven Ross criteria:

  1. Did the alleged negligence of the defendant occur in the course of the defendant’s performing tasks with the purpose of protecting patients from harm;
  2. Did the injuries occur in a place where patients might be during the time they were receiving care, so that the obligation of the provider to protect persons who require special, medical care was implicated;
  3. At the time of the injury was the claimant in the process of seeking or receiving health care;
  4. At the time of the injury was the claimant providing or assisting in providing health care;
  5. Is the alleged negligence based on safety standards arising from professional duties owed by the health care provider;
  6. If an instrumentality was involved in the defendant’s alleged negligence, was it a type used in providing health care; or
  7. Did the alleged negligence occur in the course of the defendant’s taking action or failing to take action necessary to comply with safety-related requirements set for health care providers by governmental or accrediting agencies?

Based on these criteria, the Court decided that it finds no “substantive nexus between the safety standards [the visitor] claims the hospital violated and the hospital’s provision of health care.”