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Dog mauling at assisted living facility not a health care liability claim, justices find
Houston

HOUSTON - No expert medical report is needed in a lawsuit alleging a woman was mauled by a dog in the lobby of an assisted living facility, according to a recent opinion issued by the First Court of Appeals.

The suit was brought by Norma Graves through James Graves, her son, pursuant to a general power of attorney and names Village Green Alzheimer’s Care Home as a defendant. 

Court documents show that a Village Green employee brought a stray dog into the facility. In February 2020, Norma Graves walked through the common area and saw the dog lying on a lobby couch. She reached out to pet the dog and the dog knocked her to the ground and mauled her face. 

Norma Graves was taken to the emergency room and received stitches to close multiple gashes on her face. She also suffered a large puncture wound that could not be closed because it was too close to her eye, court records state.

Her son sued the facility on her behalf, asserting claims for premises liability and gross negligence. 

Court records show Village Green moved to dismiss the suit, arguing that the claims against it are health care liability claims and that Graves failed to satisfy the statutory requirement of an adequate expert report under the Texas Medical Liability Act. 

The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and Village Green appealed. 

On Dec. 23, the First Court of Appeals concluded that the suit is not a health care liability claim, affirming the trial court’s order denying Village Green’s motion to dismiss.  

“In sum, Village Green accepted the housing of a stray dog on its premises,” the opinion states. “These same premises were used for caring for residents with Alzheimer’s. But there was no connection between the two activities. They were apparently meant to peacefully co-exist alongside one another. Tragically, they did not.

“But the location of their unfortunate merger cannot bring the allegedly negligent acts within the scope of the TMLA: housing a stray dog is not inseparable from the rendition of medical care.”

Village Green is represented by Joshua Anderson and Chastiti, attorneys for the Houston law firm of Horne Rota Moos. 

Graves is represented by Houston attorney Michael Kerensky. 

Appeals case No. 01-21-00131-CV