Med Mal v. Contract Clash Avoided Via Improper Proffer

A memorandum opinion teases, but does not answer, an interesting question: Does Chapter 74 of the Civil Practice & Remedies Code require a plaintiff to produce an expert report for a breach of contract claim arising out of the provision of medical services? Margaret Miller’s son placed her in a “skilled nursing resident program” at Plaza Health Services and contractually agreed to be the “responsible party” for payment. Among other things, the contract provided that the facility was a “restraint-free community,” and that no restraints of any type would “be used as punishment or as a substitute for more effective medical nursing care or for the convenience of the community staff.” After the nursing facility sued for unpaid bills, he he counterclaimed for breach of contract, DTPA, and medical negligence claims. The negligence claims were dismissed due to the failure to file a medical expert report, and the trial court granted a motion in limine to exclude evidence of restraints or straitjackets used on Ms. Miller. Unfortunately, error was not preserved on that issue due to the lack of a proper proffer of the excluded evidence. The grant or denial of a motion in limine does not preserve error by itself. If the motion is granted, the losing party must, during trial, (1) approach the bench and ask for a ruling, (2) formally offer the excluded evidence, and (3) obtain a ruling on the offer. Here, the appellants argued about the relevance of the evidence, but never actually offered it or obtained a ruling during trial on its admissibility. Accordingly, error was not preserved, and judgment for the nursing facility was affirmed.

Ferguson v. Plaza Health Servs. at Edgemere, No. 05-12-01399

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