Mental Health Organization Allowed to Plea in Personal Injury Case
A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Texas allows Dallas Metrocare Services, a provider of public mental health care, to argue a plea of immunity in its ongoing legal dispute with former patient Adolfo Juarez. This decision is the latest development in a lengthy legal battle between the nonprofit organization and Juarez.
The case has made the rounds from trial court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and the Texas Supreme Court, and it is soon going to be subject to further jurisdictional review. Here is a breakdown of the case to date:
- Alleged injury and trial. Juarez filed the initial lawsuit against Metrocare after he was allegedly struck on the head by a whiteboard while visiting a Metrocare facility. He claimed that while he was seated at a table, a large whiteboard that was propped up on the table behind him fell, hitting him on the head. During the trial, Metrocare entered a plea of immunity on the grounds that the alleged injury did not result from explicit “use” of the facility’s property. The trial court dismissed the plea.
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Upon appeal, Metrocare made the argument that the “condition” of the facility’s property was not the cause of Juarez’s injury. However, since this was the first time Metrocare had made such an assertion, the appeals court declined to consider the new argument, which prompted Metrocare to seek the opinion of the state Supreme Court.
- State Supreme Court. The Texas Supreme Court ruled that Metrocare’s original argument regarding the “use” of the facility’s property constituted valid grounds for an immunity plea, and that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit had erred in failing to draw the same conclusion.
The case goes up for further jurisdictional review soon, and Metrocare is allowed to enter an appeal of immunity. Juarez has amended his original allegations to include four claims of negligent conduct.
This case demonstrates how complex personal injury claims can become, which is why it’s important to work with a knowledgeable Houston attorney if you need to seek damages.