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Was Colorado hospital subject to jurisdiction of Texas courts? (Legal Focus on Hospital Law Issues).

Case on point: Townsend v. Univ. Hospital-Univ. of Colorado, 2002 WL 1836345 So.3d--TX.

ISSUE: The issue with which Texas courts were confronted in this unusual case involving jurisdiction may enlighten hospital administrators as to some of the conduct which might subject their hospitals to the jurisdiction of other states. One of the issues was whether a Colorado hospital's advertising on the internet could have subjected it to the jurisdiction of Texas courts.

CASE FACTS: Julia Caren Townsend Olivares had a medical consultation with Dr. Luisa Gan at the Mesquite Medical Center in Texas for bronchial problems after going to the emergency room complaining of extreme shortness of breath and coughing up blood. Dr. Gan transferred the patient to Medical City of Dallas, where Dr. David Weill examined the patient. Dr. Weill concluded that the patient's pulmonary hypertension was too advanced to be treated at Medical City and recommended that the patient be transferred to the Pulmonary Hypertension Center at University of Colorado Hospital (UCH) in Denver, Colorado. The patient was airlifted to UCH, arriving February 16, 1999. The patient remained at UCH for approximately one week. UCH treated the patient until her death on February 21, 1999. An autopsy revealed that the patient died of complications associated with a disease of her lungs called primary pulmonary hypertension, but an autopsy did not reveal which complications occurred and resulted in Olivares' death. Ardis Noreen Townsend and others brought suit against UCH in the Judicial District Court, Dallas County, Texas. The hospital's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that Texas courts did not have jurisdiction over the hospital was granted by the court. The Townsends appealed.

COURT'S OPINION: The Court of Appeals of Texas affirmed the judgment of the lower court for the hospital. The court held, inter alia, that the court may assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if the requirements of both the Due Process Cause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Texas long-arm statute are satisfied. The court noted that UCH correctly asserted that it was not a citizen of the State of Texas, not licensed to practice in Texas, did not practice in Texas, did not do business in Texas, owned no property in Texas, leased no property in Texas, had no investments in Texas, and had never paid taxes in Texas. The court further agreed that there was no evidence that the defendant had committed any tort in Texas, nor had it entered into any contract with Texas residents for the provision of medical care or treatment or for the referral of patients. It did not appoint any agent for service of process in Texas and was not required to do so.

LEGAL COMMENTARY: When a personal jurisdiction question is reviewed, courts review all the evidence. The proper standard for reviewing the evidence in a case involving a challenge to in personam jurisdiction is factual sufficiency. Thus, a court may reference a decision of a trial court only if its ruling is so against the great weight and preponderance of the evidence so as to be manifestly erroneous or unjust. Under the Due Process Clause, a defendant must have certain minimum contact with the forum such that maintaining suit there will not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." A nonresident defendant that has purposefully availed itself of the privileges and benefits of conducting business in the foreign jurisdiction has sufficient contacts with the forum to confer personal jurisdiction. However, a defendant should not be subject to the jurisdiction of a foreign court based on "random," "fortuitous," or "attenuated" contacts. The Texas Supreme Court articulated a three-pronged formula to ensure compliance with the federal standard: (1) there must be a "substantial connection" between the nonresident defendant and Texas arising from the action or conduct of the nonresident defendant purposefully directed toward Texas; (2) the cause of action must arise out of or contacts with Texas and must be continuing and systematic; and (3) assumption of jurisdiction must not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Due consideration should be given to the burden on the defendant, the interests of the forum state in adjudicating the dispute, and the plaintiffs interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief. The court noted that the patient seeking treatment in this case travelled to Colorado. None of the Colorado defendants travelled to Texas or any other state to render care to the plaintiff. The court rejected the plaintiffs argument that because UCH advertised its services over the internet, ergo it subjected itself to the jurisdiction of the Texas courts. None of the Colorado physicians independently advertised their services on the internet. UCH maintained a website but contended it was passive or for informational purposes only. Nothing in the evidence indicated that any of the Colorado defendants transacted business or entered into contacts via the internet or UCH's website. Having an information contact and product information alone on the interact is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction.

Meet the Editor & Publisher: A. David Tammelleo, JD, is a nationally recognized authority on health care law. Practicing law for nearly 40 years, he concentrates in health care law with the Rhode Island law firm of A. David Tammelleo & Associates. He has presented seminars on medical, nursing and hospital law throughout the United States. In addition to his writings as Editor of Medical Law's, Nursing Law's & Hospital Law's Reagan Reports, his legal articles have been published in the most prestigious health law journals. A prolific writer, his thousands of articles, as well as his achievements as an attorney and lecturer, have won him recognition in Martindale-Hubbell's Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers and Marquis Who's Who in American Law.
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Article Details
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Author:Tammelleo, A. David
Publication:Hospital Law's Regan Report
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U8CO
Date:Aug 1, 2002
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