Texas Court Affirms Employers Owe No Duty of Medical Care

By Roy Maurer July 17, 2015

A Texas appeals court affirmed that, under state law, employers are not obligated to provide medical care to employees while they are on the job unless they have been rendered helpless and incapable of aiding themselves and they need immediate and urgent medical attention.

The Texas Court of Appeals for the Third District dismissed claims against a Holiday Inn Express in Round Rock asserted by a former employee who suffered a stroke on the job and accused the hotel chain of breaching a duty to provide medical care.

The court held that David E. Welch, a former front desk employee at the hotel, lacked the evidence that he needed emergency care the day the incident occurred.

“To the extent that a limited exception exists in a situation where an employee is rendered helpless and incapable of assisting himself and requires emergency medical care to avoid death or serious injury, Welch did not provide any evidence to demonstrate that he came within the exception,” the court said.

Welch began to experience physical symptoms related to his speech, motor skills and gait while working at the front desk on the day in question. He continued to work and perform his duties but told his supervisor that he was experiencing physical symptoms. She testified that she was unable to detect or observe any changes in him.

Welch told her later in the morning that he believed that he needed medical care, and she offered to drive him to the doctor when his shift ended at 3 p.m. During this time, Welch was “conscious, lucid, had his normal cognitive functions, and was physically able to work and to summon emergency care,” according to the court opinion. He never told his supervisor that he required emergency medical treatment, and he was never instructed not to seek medical assistance himself. Shortly before his shift ended, Welch called for an ambulance and was transported to a hospital. He was diagnosed with having a stroke.

He later filed suit against the hotel and his co-workers, acknowledging that his stroke was not caused by his work duties but alleging that the delay in providing him assistance caused resulting disabilities. Welch asserted that the defendants had a duty to provide him emergency medical care to prevent his stroke when he exhibited symptoms. He acknowledged that as a general rule an employer owes no duty to provide medical care to an employee who becomes injured or ill, but he contended that Texas law should be expanded to hold that an employer or co-worker should be required to provide employee medical care even when the employee is not rendered helpless or incapable of helping himself.

The court declined to make that expansion and found that Welch never provided evidence that he was incapable of calling for medical care himself on the day in question.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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