Texas Supreme Court Holds Chiropractor Had a Duty to Disclose

Woman getting adjusted by a chiropractor

In Felton v. Lovett, No. 11-0252, 2012 WL 5971207 (Tex. 2012), a patient, who suffered vertebral arterial dissection and stroke as a result of a neck manipulation, brought an action against a chiropractor, alleging that he failed to disclose risks associated with the neck manipulation procedure. 

The jury found in favor of the patient and awarded damages against the chiropractor.  The chiropractor appealed.

A reasonable health care provider must disclose the risks that would influence a reasonable patient in deciding whether to undergo treatment.  A health care provider may be liable for failing to disclose to a patient the risks inherent in proposed treatment. 

The issue in this case was whether the possibility that a patient would suffer a negative reaction to a procedure due to an undetectable physical condition was a risk that was inherent in the procedure.

The court of appeals concluded that because the patient’s injury would not have occurred but for his own physical condition—an unhealthy vertebral artery—the risk could not have been inherent in the chiropractor’s treatment.  The Texas Supreme Court held that the court of appeals ruling “ignores the evidence that the patient’s injury would not have occurred but for the chiropractor’s treatment, that chiropractic neck manipulation can result in vertebral artery dissection, and that dissection and stroke are known risks of chiropractic treatment that should be disclosed.”  As such, the Texas Supreme Court held that risk of vertebral artery dissection and stroke was inherent in neck manipulations, and, thus, the chiropractor had a duty to disclose the risk.