Equal Protection Did Not Win the Day

Gardners appealed from a take-nothing judgment in a medical malpractice lawsuit against Children’s Medical Center. Gardners challenge the constitutionality of section 74.153 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, arguing that the heightened standard of proof in cases involving emergency medical care in certain facilities violates the Equal Protection Clauses of the Texas and US Constitution. The statute created two categories of claimants: (1) those who received emergency medical care in certain settings and must meet a heightened standard of proof, and (2) those who receive emergency medical care in non-covered settings or receive non-emergency care and must only meet the traditional standard of proof. Gardners claim this classification is arbitrary, unreasonable, and not rationally related to a legitimate state interest.

The court of appeals held that the statute does not violate the Equal Protection clauses. According to the court, the lack of legislative facts explaining the basis for the statute’s classification has no significance in rational-basis analysis because legislative choices may be based on rational speculation unsupported by evidence or empirical data. The court also noted that the classification does not fail rational-basis review simply because in practice it results in some inequity. Instead, the statute must be upheld if there is any reasonably conceivable state of facts that could provide a rational basis for the classification. The court determined that the statute bears a rational relationship to the State’s legitimate interest in ensuring the provision and availability of emergency medical care to its citizens. Thus, Gardners’ sole issue on appeal was overruled, and the trial court’s judgment was affirmed.

Gardner v. Children’s Medical Center, No. 05-11-00758-CV