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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:On Dec. 1, 1995, Dr. Keith Spooner delivered Tangie Walters’ fourth child at Cleveland Regional Medical Center. The same day, Spooner performed a bilateral tubal ligation on Walters. Walters was taken to the recovery room in stable condition. All surgical sponges were accounted for, according to the sponge count performed by nurse Shirley Kiefer. After the surgery, Walters began suffering chronic abdominal pain, which progressively worsened over the next 10 years. The pain was more intense during her menstrual cycle, with bowel movements and during certain physical activities. She also suffered various ailments during this time, including bladder infections, frequent urination, vaginal bleeding, lymph node infections, sinus problems, pneumonia-like symptoms, insomnia and fatigue. Beginning in March 1998, more than two years after the surgery, she was treated by primary care physicians, who performed blood and urine tests, and prescribed antibiotics, antidepressants and sleep medications. In April 2005, almost 10 years after the surgery, Walters went to Dr. Mary Garnepudi, a gynecologist. While performing a routine exam, Garnepudi noticed something unusual and decided to perform a laparoscopy, which revealed a bulky uterus, multiple pelvic adhesions and pelvic congestion. Garnepudi referred Walters to Dr. Tracy Pipkin. Because of Walters’ continued pain, Pipkin conducted an exploratory laparotomy and hysterectomy. Pipkin noticed a mass connected to the small bowel and brought in another surgeon for an intraopertive consultation. The mass was removed and was determined to be a surgical sponge encapsulated in fibrous tissue. Pipkin told Walters that the sponge had been there for awhile, because “a lot of stuff” had grown around it. Walters believed that her many physical problems � including the weakening of her immune system and her subsequent surgeries, including the hysterectomy � resulted from the retained sponge. She brought a medical negligence suit against Spooner and Cleveland Regional Medical Center on Aug. 23, 2005, and later amended her petition to include Kiefer as a defendant. All defendants filed traditional motions for summary judgment, asserting that Walters’ claims were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice claims. Walters responded by asserting that the statute of limitations violated the open-courts guarantee, Art. I, �13, of the Texas Constitution. The trial court granted both motions for summary judgment against Walters. HOLDING:Affirmed. In two issues, Walters argued that the open-courts guarantee saved her claim from being barred by the two-year medical-malpractice statute of limitations. In her first issue, Walters argued that she alleged and offered some evidence that application of the two-year statute of limitations cut off her claim before she knew or should have known of its existence. Walters essentially argued that she met her burden of establishing an open-courts violation that would allow her to file her claim beyond the applicable statute of limitations found in Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code �74.251(a). For a litigant to establish that the limitations period of �74.251(a) violated his or her open-courts guarantee, the court stated that the litigant must first show a cognizable, common-law claim that the limitations provision of �74.251(a) restricts. Then, the litigant must show the restriction is unreasonable or arbitrary when balanced against the statute’s purpose and basis. Walters, the court stated, had the burden of establishing a fact issue that she did not have reasonable time to discover her injuries and file suit before the limitations period expired. In her second issue, Walters asserted that the medical center and Spooner failed to establish conclusively that there was no genuine issue of material fact that she should have discovered the nature of her injury and claim within two years of her tubal ligation. The fact that Walters had no medical training, the court stated, does not show that she could not have reasonably discovered her injury within the two-year limitations window; pain itself can be an indicator of injury. Evidence presented by Walters, the court stated, did not show that she relied on any doctor’s misdiagnosis in the two years following her surgery. Thus, the court held that Walters failed to establish a fact issue that she did not have a reasonable opportunity to discover her injuries and file suit before the limitations period expired and thus did not meet her burden of establishing the applicability of the open-courts guarantee. Because Walters’ first issue was dispositive, the court did not reach her second issue. OPINION:Hanks, J.; Taft, Hanks and Higley, JJ.

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