In a case of first impression, Villasan v. O’Rourke, the Beaumont 9th Court of Appeals made an unfortunate interpretation of Texas’ horrible 2003 medical malpractice tort "reform" statute.
One portion of the 2003 law states that a plaintiff can’t sue both a doctor and the governmental agency that employs that doctor. Or more precisely, that the employee will be dismissed from the suit upon a motion filed by the governmental agency.
In this case, the plaintiff sued both the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston (UTMB) and a doctor employed by UTMB. UTMB filed a motion to dismiss the employee doctor, and in response the plaintiff filed an amended petition dismissing UTMB and naming only the doctor as a defendant. Then the doctor filed a motion to dismiss based on the fact the plaintiff had originally sued both the doctor and UTMB. The Court says the doctor can be dismissed — leaving NO defendants in the case!
In practical terms, this means a plaintiff must determine before filing suit whether the employee or the employer is more responsible, and must sue only that one defendant. Of course, making this determination before suit is filed is often impossible.
This is the new reality of medical malpractice law in Texas — government doctors are basically immune from lawsuits. Welcome to Tort Reform, Texas Style.