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Monday, October 26, 2015

New Tennessee Supreme Court Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Hannan v. Alltel Overruled by the Court; Summary Judgment Granted to Defense on All Claims

Today, the Tennessee released its opinion in Rye v. Women's Care Ctr. of Memphis, MPLLC, No. W2013-00804-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Oct. 26, 2015).  Here is the summary from the opinion:
We granted permission to appeal in this healthcare liability action to reconsider the summary judgment standard adopted in Hannan v. Alltel Publishing Co., 270 S.W.3d 1 (Tenn. 2008). The Court of Appeals concluded that the Hannan standard requires reversal of the trial court‘s decision granting summary judgment to the defendants on certain of the plaintiffs‘ claims. We hereby overrule Hannan and return to a summary judgment standard consistent with Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. We hold, therefore, that a moving party may satisfy its initial burden of production and shift the burden of production to the nonmoving party by demonstrating that the nonmoving party‘s evidence is insufficient as a matter of law at the summary judgment stage to establish the nonmoving party‘s claim or defense. Applying our holding to the record in this case, we conclude that the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all the plaintiffs‘ claims at issue in this appeal. Accordingly, we affirm in part and reverse in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand this matter to the trial court for entry of summary judgment on these issues and for any other proceedings that may be necessary.
Here is a link to the majority opinion:

Justice Kirby did not participate in the decision.

Justice Lee authored a concurring opinion that can be found at this link:

Justice Bivins  authored a concurring opinion also, which can be found at this link:

Justice Wade authored a dissenting opinion that can be found at this link:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Tennessee Supreme Court Rules That the Issue of Whether Caps on Noneconomic Damages Are Constitutional Is Not Ripe at This Time

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the issue of whether caps on noneconomic damages are unconstitutional is not ripe at this time.  Clark v. Cain, No. E2015-00949-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Oct. 16, 2015) (per curiam), available at (last visited Oct. 17, 2015).  (Please scroll down under the heading of "Case History" to view the order.)

With this order, the Court accepted the defendants' and the State's applications for permission to appeal, ruled that this issue was not ripe at this time, vacated the trial court's ruling that caps were unconstitutional, and remanded the matter back to the trial court.  (Id.)

As much as I would have liked to have seen this issue decided now, this appears to the correct decision by the Court.  However, the plaintiffs had to challenge the caps preverdict because it had been decided by at least one other state's high court that a plaintiff was precluding from challenging that state’s caps postverdict and should have done so preverdict. 

NOTE: Thanks to Jon Peeler of Nashville, Tenn. for bringing this to my attention last night.

P.S.  Here is what I think about tort "reform," which caps on noneconomic damages are a part of.  Watch the clip below: pay attention to it at about the one-minute mark, to wit:

Thursday, October 08, 2015

New Tennessee Supreme Court Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Lawsuit Due to Their Failure to Provide the Statutorily Required Presuit Notice and File a Certificate of Good Faith Reinstated by the Court

The Tennessee Supreme Court released its opinion today in Ellithorpe v. Weismark, No. M2014-00279-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Oct. 8, 2015).  The summary of the opinion states as follows:
We granted review in this health care liability action to decide whether the trial court erred by failing to apply this Court's analysis in Estate of French v. Stratford House, 333 S.W.3d 546 (Tenn. 2011), in determining whether it was necessary for plaintiffs to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 et seq. We hold that the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, which amended the THCLA, statutorily abrogated our decision in Estate of French by providing that “[a]ny such civil action or claim is subject to [the THCLA] regardless of any other claims, causes of action, or theories of liability alleged in the complaint.” Because it is undisputed that the plaintiffs in this case failed to provide pre-suit notice or file a certificate of good faith, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the judgment of the trial court dismissing the plaintiffs‟ complaint with prejudice is reinstated.
(Alterations in original.)

Here's a link to the opinion:

NOTE: This case eviscerates the holding in French, supra, and disallows claims for ordinary negligence against providers listed in Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-16-101.  It does, however, acknowledge that the common knowledge exception to expert testimony remains extant.