Nursing home wins 'retaliation' court victory

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A Texas nursing home has triumphed in a lawsuit that claimed it had retaliated against a facility resident when family members complained about her care.

The family filed allegations of negligent hiring, supervision, management, and retention of employees; breach of fiduciary duty; breach of contract; and retaliation. Per the state's Medical Liability Act requirement, it had to first file an expert report on the resident's care. The courts found the expert report deficient, crumbling much of the plaintiffs' case.

The resident, Yevgeniya Kumets, was admitted to Trinity Care Center, operated by PM Management-Trinity NC LLC, after having a stroke, the Bureau of National Affairs reported. The family said inadequate care at the center caused the resident to have another stroke, and that Trinity discharged her in retaliation after family members voiced their objections to her treatment.

The trial court dismissed most of the claims, but not the retaliation claim, saying it did not fall under a “health care liability claim.”  

Nursing home providers have taken special notice that the Texas Supreme Court said a claim for retaliation or discrimination is not always a healthcare liability claim, but that it was in this case.

“We do not decide in this case that a claim for retaliation or discrimination under the Health & Safety Code is always an HCLC, or even that the Kumetses' claim for breach of fiduciary duty was an HCLC,” the opinion text in PM Management-Trinity NC LLC v. Kumets reads. However, in this specific case, the retaliation claim was “based on the same underlying facts,” and the courts should have dismissed the claim as a HCLC along with the others.

The Texas Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals' judgment respecting the retaliation claim, affirmed the remainder of the court of appeals judgment and remanded the case to trial court with orders to dismiss. It also ruled that the family pay “appropriate attorney's fees and costs of court” for the provider.

 

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