St. Mary's Law Journal


William Woolsey


Following the Texas Supreme Court’s rulings in West Oaks Hospital v. Williams and Ross v. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, it remains unclear whether a non-patient’s injury in a hospital constitutes a health care liability claim (HCLC). If the trial court rules the claim is an HCLC, the plaintiff must present expert testimony. Failure to present an expert report within 120 days after filing the suit results in automatic dismissal. The Texas Supreme Court addressed this issue in West Oaks. The Court held that a claimant, suing a hospital under a theory of premise liability, need not be a patient for the claim to be an HCLC. As a result of the Court’s ruling, Texas Courts of Appeals split on the interpretation of the West Oak’s holding. The Sixth, Twelfth, and Fourteenth Courts of Appeals interpreted the holding broadly declaring that non-patient injuries, sustained on hospital premises, are HCLCs regardless of whether they are directly related to health care or not. The First, Second, Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, and Thirteenth Courts of Appeals interpreted the holding narrowly requiring at least an indirect connection to the provision of healthcare for safety claims to constitute HCLCs. The Texas Supreme Court reheard the issue in Ross. The Court held that simply being on the premises of a healthcare facility, or the fact the defendant is a health care provider, did not make a claim an HCLC. The Court also held there must be a substantive nexus between the safety standards allegedly violated and the provision of health care. The Court, however, failed to provide a framework for completing an analysis and did not clarify what constituted a substantive nexus. Despite the ruling, the appellate courts are likely to remain split on what claims constitute an HCLC.


St. Mary's University School of Law