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Austin Court of Appeals Upholds Ruling in Favor of Patient Abuse Whistleblower

The Third Court of Appeals of Texas recently upheld a lower court’s decision in favor of a whistleblower, Ethan Vestal, against the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), ordering the case to go back to trial court for additional proceedings, including a jury trial on merits.

Mr. Vestal filed the suit with allegations that he was terminated due to reporting instances of patient abuse to the Department of Family Protective Services.

Case background

Vestal filed the case in March 2018 in Travis County District Court. In the lawsuit, he claims that during his employment at Terrell State Hospital (owned and operated by HHSC), he reported multiple instances of patient abuse to DFPS and the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). Specifically, Vestal saw a patient choked and slammed to the ground, had a patient covered with bruises tell him a staff member had hit him, was informed by a juvenile patient’s mother that the child had choke and scratch marks from being forcibly restrained, and witnessed a hospital staff member improperly roughhousing with juvenile patients.

Vestal claims that after reporting these instances of abuse, staff began to harass him and refused to work with him. Vestal’s supervisors knew of this, but declined to investigate, and ultimately fired him.

HHSC attempted to argue for dismissal of the whistleblower claim, but the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny that motion for dismissal and cleared the way for a trial to occur.

For more information about the legal options you have available to you if you believe you’ve been wrongfully terminated after blowing the whistle on illegal actions, contact an experienced whistleblower lawyer at Kardell Law Group.

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