Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hosp. – Slip-and-Fall Not a Medical Liability Claim, Court Rules

Not all injuries that occur in a hospital are medical liability claims.
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This may seem an obvious point, but it’s one a fair amount of health care providers make when faced with premises liability claims.

It’s a key distinction because claims of medical liability are bound to a very stringent standard of filing and notification requirements, as well as a higher proof burden. Although state guidelines vary on these requirements, this is generally true across the board in all 50 states.

For example in Alabama, the evidentiary and procedural laws are quite extensive. While most civil cases simply requires proof to the jury’s reasonable satisfaction, a medical malpractice claim requires proof by substantial evidence. And a poor outcome is not enough. It must be shown the medical professional breached the applicable standard of care for someone in his or her position.

Recently, a case out of Texas further underscored the point that not all claims in a health care setting have to be filed under this stricter standard. In Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hosp., the claim arose from a slip-and-fall accident by a hospital visitor who was in the lobby at the time.

According to court records, plaintiff was visiting a friend at a local hospital. As she was leaving through the lobby, preparing to exit, she slipped and fell in an area of the floor that was being cleaned and buffed.

She later sued the hospital and the company contracted by the hospital to perform maintenance at the facility.

Soon after the case was filed, the Texas Supreme Court issued its ruling in Texas West Oaks Hospital v. Williams, in which the court held that a claim stemming from safety standards made against a health care provider does not necessarily need to be related directly to providing health care in order to be considered a health care liability claim.

Based on this, defendant hospital moved to label the Ross claim a health care liability claim. On this basis, because it didn’t meet the stringent notification and proof burdens, the defense argued, the claim should be dismissed.

Trial court granted the motion and appellate court affirmed. However, the state supreme court reversed.

The court agreed with plaintiff that claims based on a departure from safety standards aren’t classified as health care claims unless there is at least some connection between the alleged negligent actions and some provision of health care. This is true even if it’s not directly related.

Here, there was no relation whatsoever to plaintiff’s health care (she wasn’t even a patient) and her injury. Thus, her claim was revived, and she will be allowed to bring it again before the trial court as one of basic premises liability.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 1-866-942-9315 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hosp., May 1, 2015, Texas Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Connors v. GEICO – Pedestrian Accident Compensation, May 8, 2015, Montgomery Injury Lawyer Blog