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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Medical Malpractice: Saving Statute Extended by Presuit Notice Letters

This week, the Tennessee Court of Appeals (Middle Section) issued an opinion holding that Tennessee's saving statute was extended by the statutorily required notice letters to healthcare providers in medical malpractice cases.  The case is Rajvongs v. Wright, No. M2011-01889-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun.  18, 2012).  The summary from the slip opinion reads as follows:
A patient who alleged that he had been negligently injured by his podiatrist filed a complaint against him for malpractice, and then voluntary dismissed the complaint without prejudice. Less than a year later, he furnished the defendant podiatrist with the sixty day notice of potential claim required by a recently enacted statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a). He subsequently refiled his complaint in reliance on his rights under the saving statute, Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1-105. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the complaint was time-barred under the saving statute because it was filed more than one year after the dismissal of the original complaint. The plaintiff contended, however, that he was entitled to the benefit of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c), which extends the statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims by 120 days if the plaintiff has complied with the sixty day notice requirement. The defendant responded by arguing that Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c) does not apply to complaints filed under the saving statute. The trial court dismissed the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, but allowed him to file an application for interlocutory appeal because of the novelty of the legal question involved.  After careful consideration of the relevant statutes, we hold that Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c) does apply to the saving statute, and we affirm.

Here's a link to the opinion:

This is a good case for patients and people in general in Tennessee. Our state has a policy of resolving cases on the merits and not on procedural technicalities, which is only fair.  It's nice to see a trial court and an appellate court step up and do the right thing for the people of Tennessee.  

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