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Friday, December 23, 2016

New Laws Effective in Tennessee on Jan. 1, 2017

http://www.capitol.tn.gov/legislation/publications/effective%2001-01-2017.pdf

New Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion: Seller of Automated External Defibrillator Granted Summary Judgment on Appeal

The Tennessee Supreme Court just issued its opinion in Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church, No. E2015-01827-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Dec. 22, 2016).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
The plaintiff‟s husband collapsed and died after participating in a cycling class at a fitness and recreation facility owned and operated by the church. Although the cycling class instructor and others present at the fitness facility attended the plaintiff's husband and called 911 soon after his collapse, they did not utilize the automated external defibrillator (“AED”) on site at the facility. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the church, alleging, among other things, that the church had negligently failed to utilize the onsite AED, to train facility personnel on the proper use of the AED, and to comply with applicable state statutes. The church denied negligence and subsequently filed a third-party complaint against the company that sold it the AED, asserting that the seller had contractually agreed to provide a physician oversight program, which, among other things, included oversight of the church's compliance with federal, state, and local regulations. The church alleged that, should the plaintiff recover a judgment against it for failing to comply with statutes, the seller should be solely responsible for the judgment. The plaintiff then filed a second amended complaint naming the seller as a defendant and alleging, as relevant to this interlocutory appeal, that: (1) the seller had negligently breached a duty it owed to her husband and others using the fitness facility to properly maintain the AEDs, to ensure that they were accessible, and to ensure that the church's employees had the knowledge, training, and ability to operate the AEDs; (2) the seller had breached its contract with the church; (3) her husband was a third-party beneficiary of the contract; and (4) the seller's negligence and breaches of contract caused her husband's death, entitling her to recover against the seller on her wrongful death and loss of consortium claims.

The seller moved for summary judgment against the plaintiff and the church, arguing that: (1) it owed no duty of care to the plaintiff or her husband; (2) the church had no common law or statutory duty to acquire or use an AED; (3) neither the plaintiff nor her husband were third-party beneficiaries of the seller's contract with the church; (4) the undisputed facts established that the seller had not breached its contract with the church; and (5) the undisputed facts failed to establish that any of the alleged breaches of contract caused the plaintiff‟s husband's death. The trial court denied the seller's motion for summary judgment, concluding that disputes of material fact remained, but it granted the seller permission to seek an interlocutory appeal. The Court of Appeals denied the seller's application for an interlocutory appeal, but this Court granted the seller permission to appeal pursuant to Rule 11 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. We conclude that the seller did not owe a duty of care to the plaintiff's husband or other users of the fitness facility independent of its contract with the church and that the church had no statutory or common law duty to acquire or use the AED it purchased from the seller, and as a result, the plaintiff's husband was not a third-party beneficiary of the church's contract with the seller. For these reasons, the seller is entitled to summary judgment on the plaintiff's second amended complaint and the church's third-party complaint. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of the seller on all claims and for any other necessary and appropriate proceedings consistent with this decision.

NOTE: In addition to the discussion on the law surrounding the seller of an AED's liability in Tennessee, this opinion sheds further light on the post-Rye summary judgment standard in our state, which makes it a must-read for that fact alone.


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Exclusion of Plaintiff's Treating Physician as a Causation Expert and Resulting Grant of Summary Judgment to the Defense Reveresed on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Holmes v. Christ Community Health Services, Inc., No. W2016-00207-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2016).  The syllabus from the opinion states as follows:
The plaintiff filed this action alleging medical malpractice against a physician who examined the plaintiff five days after injury to her shoulder, as well as the facility wherein the physician practiced. The plaintiff alleged, inter alia, that the defendant physician failed to properly diagnose a fracture dislocation in her shoulder, causing a delay in appropriate treatment. The plaintiff‘s subsequent treating physician opined in his deposition and via affidavit that if the plaintiff‘s injury had been diagnosed earlier, the plaintiff would likely have avoided an extensive surgical procedure, resultant infection stemming from such surgery, and residual impairment to her shoulder. The trial court excluded this testimony as speculative, granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant physician and hospital. The plaintiff has appealed. We determine that the trial court erred in excluding the causation evidence as speculative. We therefore vacate the court‘s grant of summary judgment in favor of the co-defendants.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/holmesdopn.pdf

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal Based upon Claim Being Time-barred for Failure to Comply with Onerous Presuit Notice Requirements Upheld on Appeal; Constitutional Challenge of Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121 Deemed to Be Without Merit

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in J.A.C. ex rel. Lesha Carter v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals, No. W2016-00024-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 2, 2016).  The syllabus from the opinion states as follows:
In this health care liability action, Defendants moved to dismiss based on the Plaintiffs' failure to provide the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act ("HIPAA") medical authorization required by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). Based on its determination that the Plaintiffs failed to substantially comply with the foregoing statute, the trial court held that the Plaintiffs were not entitled to an extension of the applicable statutes of limitations and repose under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c) and accordingly concluded that the Plaintiffs' claims were time-barred. The trial court also concluded that the Plaintiffs' constitutional challenges to the viability of Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121 were without merit. We affirm and remand for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

NOTE: I find it interesting that the courts in Tennessee---and many lawyers---have not picked up on the fact that a defendant (or potential defendant) in a health care liability action does not have to have a HIPAA-compliant authorization to share a patient's or plaintiff's protected health information ("PHI") with other defendants and their legal counsel under 45 C.F.R. sections 164.501, -502(b), -.514(d) to investigate potential medical negligence.  See http://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/faq/705/may-a-covered-entity-in-a-legal-proceeding-use-protected-health-information/index.html (last visited Nov. 19, 2016).  As such, dismissal of a health care liability action because a defendant did not get a HIPAA-compliant authorization for a patient's PHI would be improper because Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121's requirement that such an authorization be enclosed as part of a claimant's presuit notice appears to be preempted by HIPAA. 


Thursday, October 27, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Common-knowledge Exception Applies to the Breach of Duty But Not to Causation; Trial Court's Dimissal with Prejudice Upheld on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Redick v. Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, No. M2016-00428-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 26, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:  
Vicki J. Redick (“Plaintiff”) appeals the dismissal with prejudice of her health care liability action against Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital (“the Hospital”) and Jane Doe, an employee of the Hospital. We find and hold that Plaintiff, despite application of the common knowledge exception when appropriate, would be unable to prove her claim without expert proof, and therefore, Plaintiff was required to file a certificate of good faith in compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122. As Plaintiff failed to file the required certificate of good faith, we find no error in the judgment of the Circuit Court for Davidson County (“the Trial Court”) dismissing Plaintiff‟s case with prejudice for failure to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122.

NOTE: In this opinion, the court held that while the common-knowledge exception applied to the breach of duty, Redick v. Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, No. M2016-00428-COA-R3-CV, slip op. at  8 (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 26, 2016), it did not apply to causation, inter alia, because what injuries the plaintiff suffered were not within the common knowledge of laypersons (unlike when a wrong body part is operated on or a foreign object is unintentionally left in a patient's body after surgery), id. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Refiled Case Overturned on Appeal Due to the Saving Statute

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Robinson v. Robbins, No. W2016-00381-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Oct. 19, 1996).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
This is a health care liability action.  The plaintiffs timely filed suit against the defendant concerning the inadequate care and treatment received by the decedent. After voluntarily dismissing the initial suit, the plaintiffs provided pre-suit notice before filing a second suit pursuant to the saving statute. The defendant moved to dismiss, arguing that the saving statute did not apply because there was no identity of parties between the actions. He explained that the second complaint was filed against him in his individual capacity while the initial complaint was lodged against him in his corporate capacity. The court agreed and held that the second action was barred for failure to file within the applicable statute of limitations. We reverse.
 (Footnote omitted.)

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/robinsonmyrtleopn.pdf

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Another Opinion Acknowledging That a Plaintiff Has the Right to Take a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice Even If a Motion to Dismiss Is Pending

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has issued another opinion concerning a plaintiff's right to take a nonsuit in a health care liability action when a motion to dismiss is pending.  The case is Hurley v. Pickens, No. E2015-02089-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 29, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
Dallas K. Hurley, Jr. (“Plaintiff”) sued Ryan B. Pickens, M.D. and University Urology, P.C. (“Defendants”) alleging claims for health care liability. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss. While the motion to dismiss was pending, Plaintiff filed a notice of and motion for voluntary dismissal pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41. The Circuit Court for Knox County (“the Trial Court”) granted Plaintiff a voluntary dismissal without prejudice. Defendants appeal to this Court raising issues regarding whether Plaintiff had the right to take a voluntary dismissal without prejudice when a motion to dismiss was pending and whether Plaintiff failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122 requiring dismissal of Plaintiff’s suit with prejudice. We find and hold that Plaintiff had the right to take a voluntary dismissal even while a motion to dismiss was pending. Our resolution of this issue renders Defendants’ second issue moot. We, therefore, affirm the Trial Court’s order granting Plaintiff a voluntary dismissal.
Here's a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/hurleydkopn.pdf


New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Plaintiff Allowed to Take a Voluntary Dismissal Without Prejudice Despite Pending Motion to Dismiss

Recently the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Clark v. Werther, No. M2014-00844-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 27, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
The plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a complaint in this health care liability action without attaching a certificate of good faith. Several defendants filed motions to dismiss based on the missing certificate. The plaintiff responded to the motions and filed a notice of voluntary nonsuit. Some of the defendants objected to the voluntary dismissal, arguing the complaint should be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court dismissed the plaintiff‟s claims against the non-objecting defendants without prejudice but dismissed the plaintiff‟s claims against the objecting defendants with prejudice. The plaintiff appealed all of the court‟s dismissal orders on numerous grounds. Upon review, we conclude that Rule 41.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure afforded the plaintiff the right to a voluntary dismissal without prejudice as to all defendants. Accordingly, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Here's a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/clark.robert.v.werther.opn_.pdf

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Plaintiff's Case Dismissed Due to Failure to Comply with Presuit and Filing Requirements

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Travis v. Cookeville Regional Medical Center, No. M2015-01989-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 21, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
In this health care liability case, the defendants moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121, part of Tennessee‟s Health Care Liability Act. Specifically, the defendants argue that the plaintiff failed to provide a statement in the pleadings that he complied with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a), failed to file, with the complaint, documentation demonstrating compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a), failed to file, with the complaint, an affidavit of the person who mailed pre-suit notice to the defendants, and failed to provide a HIPAA compliant medical authorization form. The trial court dismissed the case. We have reviewed the record and find that the plaintiff failed to substantially comply with Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(b). We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Partial Summary Judgment for Plainitffs as to an Affirmative Defense of Comparative Fault Reversed on Appeal

Yesterday the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Young v. Jordan, No. W2015-02453-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 20, 2016).  Here is the syllabus from the slip opinion:
This is a healthcare liability case. Appellees, patient and her husband, filed suit against Appellants, physician and employer. Appellants raised the affirmative defense of comparative fault based on the fact that Appellee/patient had been non-compliant with medical advice. Appellees moved for partial summary judgment on the affirmative defense of comparative fault. The trial court granted the motion, and Appellants appeal. Because expert testimony adduced during discovery creates a dispute of material fact as to the question of Appellees’ non-compliance with medical advice and the effect of such non-compliance on Appellees’ injury, the grant of summary judgment was error.


New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Plaintiff Waived Requirement That Defendant File a Certificate of Good Faith to Support Claim Against a New Defendant; Case Against Newly Added Defendant Dimissed Due to Plaintff's Failure to Then File a Certificate of Good Faith in Support of Claim Against the New Defendant

Yesterday the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Peatross v. Graceland Nursing Home Center, LLC, No. W2015-01412-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 20, 2016).  Here is the syllabus from the slip opinion:
This is a health care liability action.  The plaintiff filed suit against the defendants concerning the inadequate care and treatment received by the decedent. He then amended his complaint to add the defendant hospital as a party after the defendants alleged comparative fault. The defendant hospital moved to dismiss, arguing that the failure to attach a certificate of good faith applicable to it required dismissal. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss, citing this court’s opinion in Sirbaugh v. Vanderbilt University, 469 S.W.3d 46 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2014). The plaintiff appeals. We affirm. 
 (Footnote omitted.)

Here is a link to that slip opinion: http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/peatrossopn.pdf

NOTE: This opinion is a good reminder that unless the common-knowledge exception applies in a health care liability action in Tennessee, a certificate of good faith is required to support such a claim---and some party has to file one.

Also, Sirbaugh, supra, is the subject of my Jan. 20, 2015 post on this blog, to wit: http://theduncanlawfirm.blogspot.com/2015/01/new-health-care-liability-opinion.html.


Friday, September 02, 2016

New Saving Statute Case: Plaintiff's Lawsuit Dismissed Because It Was Refiled for a Second Time More Than One Year from First Voluntary Dismissal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Greenwood v. Nat'l Dentex Corp., No. W2015-01889-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 30, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
This is a saving statute case, Tennessee Code Annotated Section 28-1-105. The trial court dismissed Appellant’s third product-liability case, which was filed within one year of the dismissal of her second lawsuit, but more than one year after the entry of the initial nonsuit in Appellant’s first lawsuit. Discerning no error, we affirm.
Here is a link to the slip opinion: 


As my good friend Donald Capparella says: "Nonsuits are tricky."  They certainly are!


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Summary Judgment for Defense Upheld on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Duncan v. Ledford, No. W2015-02370-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 24, 2015).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
This is a healthcare liability case. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellees, Appellant’s treating physician and her employer. Summary judgment was based on the trial court’s finding that Appellants had failed to meet their burden of proof to show that Appellee doctor deviated from the standard of care or that the treatment provided caused Appellant to sustain injuries that otherwise would not have occurred. Discerning no error, we affirm.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/duncanopn.pdf

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What Is Required to Maintain a Personl Injury Lawsuit When the Plaintiff Dies from a Subsequent Injury Unrelated to the Injury That Birthed the Personal Injury Lawsuit

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Dubis v. Loyd, No. W2015-02192-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 15, 2016).  The summary from the opinion states as follows:
After the death of the original plaintiff while this case was pending, a timely motion for substitution was filed to substitute the original plaintiff's parents as the real party in interest pursuant to Rule 25.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The motion indicated that the original plaintiff‟s parents were her only heirs and that no estate was to be opened for the original plaintiff in her home state of Missouri. The defendant filed an objection to the substitution asserting that the original plaintiff's heirs were not the proper parties, but the trial court eventually allowed parents to be substituted as plaintiffs. After the parties became aware that an estate had been opened for the original plaintiff in Missouri, defendant filed a motion to dismiss based upon non-compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated [s]ection 20-5-104, which requires a showing that no person is willing to administer the estate of a deceased party before his or her heirs may revive a claim. Parents filed a response in opposition and, in the alternative, a motion for enlargement of time to file a motion to substitute the original plaintiff‟s personal representative. The trial court denied the motion for enlargement of time and granted the defendant‟s motion to dismiss. Because parents have shown excusable neglect sufficient to justify an enlargement of time under Rule 6.02 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, we reverse and remand for further proceedings.
Here is a link to the opinion:


NOTE: I applaud the Court of Appeals here because Tennessee has a long-standing, well-thought-out policy of allowing claims to be resolved upon their merits and not upon procedural technicalities, which is noted on page 12 of the opinion.

Monday, August 08, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Plaintiff's Case Dismissed Due to Counsel's Failure to Comply with Onerous Presuit Notice and Filing Requirements; Common-knowledge Exception Found Not to Apply

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Newman v. Guardian Healthcare Providers, Inc., No. M2015-01315-COA-R3-CV (Jul. 27, 2016).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
On August 4, 2013, Kevin Beazley, a resident at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute (MTMHI), attacked Billy Joe Newman, another patient and resident, causing injuries that resulted in Newman‟s death. His widow, Unitta Sue Newman (plaintiff), brought this action against several corporations (defendants) that provided nursing and medical staff to MTMHI. The trial court dismissed the complaint with prejudice, on the grounds that it was governed by the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA), and plaintiff did not comply with either the pre-suit notice requirement of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 (Supp. 2015), or the certificate of good faith requirement of § 29-26-122 (2012). Plaintiff argues that the allegations of her complaint fall under the “common knowledge” exception to the general rule requiring expert testimony to establish medical negligence, and, thus, she was not required to file a certificate of good faith. She asserts that the trial court should have dismissed her complaint without prejudice. Because plaintiff‟s negligence claims involve matters of professional medical knowledge, judgment, and treatment not within the common knowledge of ordinary lay persons, we affirm.
Here's a link to the slip opinion, to wit:

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Court of Appeals Reverses Grant of Summary Judgment to Defense; Extraordinary Cause Found to Exist, Which Excused Compliance with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(b)

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Kirby v. Sumner County Regional Medical Center, No. M2015-01181-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jul. 12, 2016).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
This is a health care liability action.  The plaintiff suffered permanent damage after receiving medical treatment from the defendant hospital. The plaintiff filed suit exactly one year after her hospital stay. The defendant hospital moved to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiff failed to comply with the pre-suit notice and good faith requirements applicable to health care liability actions. The plaintiff later argued that the failure to comply with the necessary requirements should be excused for extraordinary cause as evidenced by the passing of her legal counsel‟s son four days prior to the filing of the complaint. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding that no extraordinary cause existed. The plaintiff appeals. We reverse the judgment of the trial court.
(Footnote omitted.)

Here is a link to the opinion:

 http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/kirbybetty.opn.pdf

NOTE: If EVER there was a case where "extraordinary cause" existed, which would excuse compliance with Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121(b), it is this case.  Plaintiff's counsel's infant son passed away, which prevented Plaintiff's counsel from complying with -121(b). 

Thursday, July 07, 2016

New Opinion on Sudden Emergency and Loss of Consciousness: Trial Court's Jury Instructions Held Not to Be Error on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Boshears v. Brooks, No. E2015-01915-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jul. 6, 2016).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
This appeal arises from a negligence case brought after an automobile accident. James Boshears (“Boshears”) was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his girlfriend that was struck by a vehicle driven by Cleave C. Brooks (“Brooks”). Boshears sued Brooks in the Circuit Court for Anderson County (“the Trial Court”). Boshears alleged that Brooks was negligent in operating his vehicle. Brooks asserted that he suffered a stroke immediately prior to the accident, that he lost consciousness, and that, consequently, he could not be found negligent. The case was tried to a jury. The jury found that Brooks was not at fault. Boshears appealed to this Court. On appeal, Boshears argues that the Trial Court erred in charging the jury with sudden emergency when comparative fault was not raised by Brooks. Boshears also asserts that the Trial Court erred in charging the jury on both sudden emergency and loss of consciousness. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court.
Here is a link to the opinion:

Monday, July 04, 2016

Happy Independence Day!

I almost talked myself out of posting this video clip (why, I don't know), but then I thought better of it; here it is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSKOx8DKPIg.

I love this video!  I have since I first came across it years ago.

And, as John Adams wrote:
[I] am apt to believe that [Independence Day] will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty; it ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more....

Celebrate the liberty we enjoy this day; and teach your kids why we do so, too. 

My two cents' worth.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Opinion on the Collateral Source Rule

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Dedmon v. Steelman, No. W2015-01462-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun. 2, 2016).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
This interlocutory appeal requires review of a ruling on a motion in limine in a personal injury case. Prior to trial, the plaintiffs submitted expert testimony from a treating physician to establish the reasonableness of their claimed medical expenses. The defendants filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence of what they deemed ―unreasonable‖ medical expenses. They argued that the Tennessee Supreme Court‘s decision in West v. Shelby County Healthcare Corporation, 459 S.W.3d 33 (Tenn. 2014), established a new standard in Tennessee for determining the reasonable amount of medical expenses as a matter of law. The trial court granted the defendants‘ motion in limine, thus excluding the testimony of the treating physician. For the following reasons, the trial court‘s order is reversed and this matter is remanded for further proceedings.
Here are the links to the majority opinion and the concurring opinion by the special judge:

http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/dedmonjeanopn_0.pdf

http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/dedmonjeancon_0.pdf

New Opinion on Qualified Protective Orders under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(f)

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Caldwell v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, No. W2015-01076-COA-R10-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun. 3, 2016).  The summary from the slip opinion states as follows:
In this health care liability action, this Court granted the defendants‟ application pursuant to Tenn. R. App. P. 10 to address two issues. We have determined that: (1) the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”) does not preempt Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(f); and (2) the trial court erred in denying the defendants‟ petition for a qualified protective order pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(f) because it is undisputed that the defendants complied with the procedural requirements of subsection (f), and the plaintiff did not file an objection as permitted under the statute. We, therefore, reverse the trial court‟s decision and remand for the entry of a qualified protective order.
Here is a link to the opinion:

http://www.tsc.state.tn.us/sites/default/files/caldwellaopn.pdf

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Trial Court's Denial of Summary Judgment Reversed and Summary Judgment for Defendant Granted Due to Express Assumption of Risk

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Gibson v. Young Men's Christian Association of Middle Tennessee, No. M2015-01465-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 16, 2016).  The summary form the slip opinion states as follows:
This is an appeal from an order denying summary judgment. The appellee signed a YMCA membership application and release agreement prior to tripping and falling on a sidewalk in front of the YMCA. The appellee filed suit, alleging negligence. The YMCA then filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that the appellee expressly assumed the risk of her injuries. The trial court denied the YMCA’s motion for summary judgment but granted a motion for interlocutory appeal. We reverse the trial court’s order denying summary judgment and remand with instructions to enter summary judgment.
Here is a link to the opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/gibsonsandraopn.pdf

NOTE: This opinion is a good reminder of how express assumption of risk might affect a tort case.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Wrongful Death Opinion: Trial Court's Disqualification of Surviving Spouse under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-5-107(b) Reversed on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just released its opinion in Spires v. Simpson, No. E2015-00697-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 26, 2016).  The summary from the opinion reads as follows:
The surviving spouse in this wrongful death action appeals the trial court‟s dismissal of him as a plaintiff. The decedent and surviving spouse had one child together, who was eighteen months old at the time of the decedent‟s fatal automobile accident in October 2010. The decedent and surviving spouse were living apart, and the child had been residing solely with the decedent. On November 18, 2010, the surviving spouse, acting on behalf of the decedent, the child, and himself, filed the instant action in the Monroe County Circuit Court (“trial court”) against the seventeen-year-old driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident and her parents, who were the owners of the vehicle.  Also in November 2010, the Monroe County Juvenile Court granted custody of the child to the maternal grandmother. Upon a subsequent petition filed by the maternal grandmother and maternal uncle in the Blount County Chancery Court, the surviving spouse's parental rights to the child were terminated and a decree of adoption was granted to the maternal uncle on August 8, 2012. The child's maternal grandmother and adoptive father subsequently filed successive motions to intervene in this action on behalf o[f] the child. Upon announcement of an agreement as to the settlement amount offered by the defendants' insurance company, the trial court entered an agreed order awarding a $100,000.00 judgment against the defendants.  Following a bench trial regarding the remaining issues, the court found that pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-5-107(b), the surviving spouse was statutorily disqualified from commencing and maintaining this action or collecting any portion of a settlement because he owed outstanding child support arrearages on behalf of children born to four women other than the decedent. We determine that although Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-5-107(b) operates to prohibit the surviving spouse's recovery of his one-half of the settlement until his child support obligations are paid, it does not operate to disqualify him from commencing and maintaining this wrongful death action. We therefore reverse the trial court's dismissal of the surviving spouse as a plaintiff and the court's substitution of the adoptive father as an intervening plaintiff. We remand for distribution of the wrongful death settlement proceeds, one-half toward payment of the surviving spouse's child support arrearages with interest, pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 20-5-107(b), and one-half to the minor child in trust with the adoptive father as trustee. We affirm the trial court's judgment in all other respects.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/spires_opinion_final_corrected.pdf

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

New Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion on the Saving Statute

On March 7, 2016, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued its opinion in Circle C Construction, LLC v. D. Sean Nilsen, No. M2013-02330-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Mar. 7, 2016).  The summary from the majority opinion states as follows:
The issue we address is whether the savings statute applies to save an action that was filed within the extended statute of limitations set by a tolling agreement, was voluntarily nonsuited, and was refiled within one year, but after the extended statute of limitations in the tolling agreement. The trial court granted summary judgment, ruling that the case was not timely filed. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the tolling agreement precluded application of the savings statute. We hold that the party filing the suit complied with the tolling agreement by filing the first suit within the extended statute of limitations set by the agreement. The savings statute applies to save the action; therefore, the refiled suit was timely filed. We reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand this case to the trial court.
Here is a link to the majority opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/circlecconstruction.opn_.pdf

Here is a link to Justice Kirby's opinion where She concurs in part and dissents in part:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/circlecconstruction.sepopn.pdf

NOTE: This is a good read for the Tennessee practitioner.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

New Wrongful Death Opinion: Hataway Redux

On March 11, 2016 the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sterchi v. Savard, No. E2015-00928-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 11, 2016).  This opinion involves a wrongful death case where the death actually occurred in Florida but suit was filed here in Tennessee.  It serves as a reminder that Tennessee abandoned the doctrine of lex loci delicti in Hataway v. McKinley, 820 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1992) and adopted the "most significant relationship" approach when determining what substantive law applies when a conflict of law arises as described herein.  

The summary from the majority opinion states as follows:
This appeal concerns a conflict of law choice between Tennessee and Florida law.  James R. Sterchi, Jr. (“Mr. Sterchi”) sued L. Basil Savard (“Mr. Savard”) in the Circuit Court for Bradley County (“the Trial Court”) for the wrongful death of Mr. Sterchi’s mother Rosalind Savard (“Mrs. Savard”) in a car accident in Florida.  Mr. Savard filed a motion for summary judgment. Florida law prevents Mr. Sterchi from pursuing his claim while Tennessee law does not.  All interested parties were domiciled in Tennessee.  The Trial Court held that Florida law applies and granted Mr. Savard’s motion for summary judgment.  Mr. Sterchi filed an appeal to this Court.  We hold that under “the most significant relationship” test as adopted by our Supreme Court in Hataway v. McKinley, 830 S.W.2d 53 (Tenn. 1992), Tennessee has the more significant relationship to the occurrence and parties in this case, and, therefore, Tennessee substantive law applies to Mr. Sterchi’s wrongful death action. We reverse the judgment of the Trial Court.
Here is a link to the majority opinion:


Here is a link to Judge Frierson's concurring opinion (which deals with the applicability of Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 20-16-101):





Tuesday, March 01, 2016

Ten Year Anniversary!

This post is a little belated, but, as of January of this year, this blog is ten years old!  

Doesn't seem like it's been a decade already.  Whew!

Thanks to all of you who read this blog and e-mail me with questions, comments, etc

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Grant of Summary Judgment to One Defendant Reversed on Appeal Due to the Application of the Discovery Rule

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Rogers v. Blount Mem'l Hosp., Inc., No. E2015-00136-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 29, 2016).  The summary from the opinion states as follows:
This appeal involves a health care liability action filed by the plaintiff against Blount Memorial Hospital, Inc. (“BMHI”) and the doctor who treated the plaintiff at BMHI from September 8, 2012, to September 13, 2012. The plaintiff filed his complaint on December 13, 2013, alleging that the defendant doctor had misdiagnosed his illness, causing a delay in treatment and resultant permanent injuries. Both defendants filed motions to dismiss, which were converted into motions for summary judgment with the filing of additional affidavits. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of BMHI based on, inter alia, the applicable statute of limitations and BMHI's immunity as a governmental entity. The court subsequently granted summary judgment to the defendant doctor based on the statute of limitations. The plaintiff timely appealed. Determining that a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding when the plaintiff was aware of facts sufficient to place him on notice that his injury was allegedly the result of the defendant doctor's wrongful conduct, we conclude that summary judgment was improperly granted to the defendant doctor. We affirm the trial court‟s grant of summary judgment in favor of BMHI.
Here is a link to the opinion:


Just Swiney issued a separate concurring opinion also, which can be found at this link:


NOTE: This opinion offers a good discussion of the discovery rule in health care liability actions.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: The Common-knowledge Exception Is Alive and Well

The Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion today in Osunde v. Delta Medical Center, No. W2015-01005-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Feb. 10, 2016).  The summary from the opinion states as follows:
This interlocutory appeal concerns the trial court‟s partial dismissal of a case concerning
alleged negligence committed against Plaintiff/Appellee Brenda Osunde (“Mrs. Osunde”).  Mrs. Osunde filed a complaint in the trial court alleging a medical malpractice claim against DMC-Memphis, Inc. (“DMC”), as well as a claim for common law negligence, after she sustained a fall while at DMC's hospital, Delta Medical Center. When Mrs. Osunde failed to disclose any experts pursuant to the trial court‟s scheduling order, DMC moved for summary judgment. In adjudicating DMC's motion, the trial court drew a distinction between Mrs. Osunde's “health care liability action,” which it dismissed for her failure to produce an expert, and Mrs. Osunde's common law negligence claim, which it ruled should proceed to trial. After ruling on the motion for summary judgment, the trial court stayed further proceedings and granted DMC leave to pursue interlocutory review in this Court. Although we agree with DMC that all of Mrs. Osunde's asserted claims give rise to a “health care liability action” within the meaning of the Tennessee Code, we disagree with DMC's assertion that expert testimony is required to prove Mrs. Osundes allegations of negligence.  As such, we reverse the trial court‟s order to the extent that it purports to dismiss Mrs.Osunde's health care liability action, and we affirm the trial court‟s decision to allow this
case to proceed to trial.
Here's a link to the opinion:


NOTE: This opinion cites Deuel v. The Surgical Clinic, PLLC, No. M2009-01551-COA-R3-CV, 2010 WL 3237297, at *9-14 (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 16, 2010), available at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=12032494268351347403&q=Deuel&hl=en&as_sdt=4,43 (last visited Feb. 10, 2016).  Deuel was my case and I am happy to see it being cited for the proposition that the common-knowledge exception to expert testimony is alive and well in Tennessee.  There is also persuasive authority that supports Deuel and Osunde from one of our sister states, New Jersey, to wit: Hubbard ex rel. Hubbard v. Reed, 774 A.2d 495 (N.J. 2001), available at https://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=14138098579974599499&q=Hubbard&hl=en&as_sdt=4,31 (last visited Feb. 10, 2016).

Further, even if the common knowledge exception applies in a health care liability action, presuit notices must still be mailed out per Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121, even if a certificate of good faith is not required per Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-16-122.  See Hubbard, supra, and my post from March 10, 2015, to wit:

http://theduncanlawfirm.blogspot.com/2015/03/new-health-care-liability-action.html


Monday, February 01, 2016

New Medical Malpractice Opinion: Plaintiffs' Case Dismissed Due to Numerous Reasons

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Mikheil v. Nashville General Hospital at Meharry, No. No. M2014-02301-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 29, 2016).  The summary of the opinion states as follows:
In this health care liability action, the plaintiffs disagree with a number of the trial court’s rulings upon which it based its decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The trial court excluded the plaintiffs’ life care planner due to their failure to provide a complete disclosure of the life care planner’s opinions in a timely manner. The trial court ruled that the plaintiffs’ sole standard of care expert, a neurosurgeon, was not competent to testify as to the standard of care of the defendant nurse practitioner.  Furthermore, the trial court precluded the plaintiffs’ standard of care expert from testifying at all due to the plaintiffs’ repeated failure to comply with the court’s orders regarding discovery. We find no abuse of discretion with respect to the trial court’s decisions and affirm the judgment.
Here is a link to the opinion:


NOTE: This case is still a "medical malpractice case" as opposed to a "health care liability action" because it arose before the statutory name change in 2011.