Carreras v. Marroquin
In Carreras v. Marroquin, 339 S.W.3d 68 (Tex. 2011), the plaintiffs attempted to toll the statute of limitations by sending pre-suit notice of their health care liability claims to the defendant physician shortly before the statute of limitations ran, but failed to accompany it with an authorization form as required by chapter 74. Id. at 69-70.
After the plaintiffs filed suit, the defendant physician moved for summary judgment, arguing that the notice alone did not toll the statute of limitations and that the suit was therefore untimely. Id.
The trial court denied the defendant physician's motion for summary judgment and entered an agreed order permitting an interlocutory appeal. Id.
The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's judgment. Id. at 69-71. The supreme court, however, disagreed, reversed the trial court's judgment, and rendered judgment that the plaintiffs take nothing. Id. at 74.
The supreme court stated that after considering the text, history, and purpose of the statutes at issue, it concluded that for the statute of limitations to be tolled in a health care liability claim under chapter 74, a plaintiff must provide both the statutorily required notice and the statutorily required authorization form. Id.
The Carreras court first examined the text of the statute. Id. at 71-72. The court observed that section 74.051(c) states, "Notice given as provided in this chapter shall toll the applicable statute of limitations ...." Id. at 72; see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. 74.051(c).
The court thus looked to sections 74.051(a) and 74.052(a) and noted that they specify that the notice "must be accompanied by" an authorization form and that section 74.052(a) provides for abatement if an authorization form is not provided "along with" notice. Carreras, 339 S.W.3d at 72; see Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. 74.051(a), 74.052(a).
The Carreras court stated that "must accompany" is a directive that creates a mandatory condition precedent and that the benefit of the notice--tolling--may not therefore be utilized if the authorization does not accompany the notice. Carreras, 339 S.W.3d at 72.
The Carreras court also went on to conclude that the statutory history bolstered this interpretation of the statutes and that the interpretation followed from the purpose of the notice provision, which is to encourage negotiations and settlement of disputes prior to suit, thereby reducing litigation costs. Id. at 72-73.