Dallas Court of Appeals holds immunity is waived when employees dropped elderly woman while lifting her from wheelchair

Dallas County Hospital District d/b/a Parkland Health & Hospital System v. Connie Moon, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Sandra Mercado 05-17-00538-CV (Tex.App— Dallas, October 12, 2017)

This is a Texas Tort Claims Act (“TTCA”) case involving the alleged negligent use of tangible personal property (i.e. a wheelchair) in which the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of the hospital’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Mercado (a 72 year old woman confined to a wheelchair) was in a Parkland Hospital examination room when three Parkland employees attempted to transfer her from the wheelchair to the examination table. The employees removed the arms of the wheelchair to make the attempt, however, they dropped her in the process, fracturing her ankle.  Mercado’s estate sued Parkland for personal injuries. In response, Parkland filed a plea to the jurisdiction which the trial court denied. Parkland appealed.

Mercado’s attorney contended the wheelchair was lacking an integral safety component when the employees removed the arms and the employees, therefore, misused the wheelchair. Parkland contended Mercado’s claims were really the non-use of a “Hoyer lift and sling” as alleged in the pleadings. The court agreed Parkland retains immunity to the extent Mercado alleged Parkland should have used different equipment. The court also agreed Mercado did not properly allege the negligent “use” of the examination table as being the cause of the injury. However, Mercado’s counsel did properly allege, from a pleadings standpoint, that the negligent use of the wheelchair caused or contributed to the injury. As a result, the plea was properly denied as to the wheelchair allegations.

If you want to read this opinion click here. The panel consists of Justice Lang-Miersand Justices,   Brown, and Boatright. Justice Lang-Miers delivered the opinion of the court. To see the attorneys listed for the Appellant and Appellee’s click here.