The list of disputes that qualify as a “heath care liability claim” under Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Chapter 74 just got a little longer. Chapter 74 requires a plaintiff litigating such a claim to file an expert report early in the proceedings. This time, the dispute at issue involves a doctor’s note, according to a Nov. 21 decision by Dallas’ 5th Court of Appeals.
The background in Crystal Monson v. Allen Family First Clinic, et al. is as follows, according to the 5th Court: In 2009, Monson saw Dr. Chandana Reddy at the Allen Family First Clinic for treatment. When Monson left the office, she received a note regarding her ability to return to work. That note stated that Monson could return to work five days later.
Reddy’s office manager, Candace Gauntt, later sent a letter to Monson’s employer that noted that Monson left the office “with no work limitation” and explained that the previous note was filled out by a new employee who “misunderstood” what the doctor wanted. Monson was subsequently terminated by her employer, and the letter was an alleged direct and proximate cause of her termination.
In 2011, Monson sued Reddy, Gauntt and the clinic, alleging invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against the defendants, among other things. The defendants moved to dismiss Monson’s case because she failed to file an expert report 120 days after she filed her petition. Monson later amended her petition to omit the invasion of privacy claim, but a trial court dismissed her case for failure to file an expert report.
On appeal, Monson claimed that the trial court erred in dismissing her case because it was not a health-care liability claim and no expert report was needed, but the 5th Court disagreed.
“A physician or health care provider’s note recommending that a patient have time off from work or modified working conditions is ‘health care’ when the time off or modified working conditions are part of the patient’s medical care or treatment,” wrote Justice Lana Myers in an opinion joined by Justices Jim Moseley and Robert Fillmore that affirmed the trial court’s decision.
Robert D. Ranen, a partner in Gunter’s Ranen & Netzer who represents Monson, declines comment about the decision.
Russell G. Thornton, a partner in Dallas’ Stinnett Thiebaud & Remington who represents the defendants in the case, is pleased with the decision. Notes Thornton, “The courts just apply what the Legislature’s definition of what a health-care liability claim is. The way the statute is, it’s pretty broad.”