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Tuesday, July 03, 2018

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Action as Time-barred Overturned on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its decision in Martin v. Rolling Hills Hospital, LLC, No. M2016-02214-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jun. 22, 2016).  The syllabus from the opinion reads as follows:
This is an appeal in a health care liability action from the dismissal of the action for Plaintiffs’ failure to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) when they failed to provide the Defendants with HIPAA compliant authorizations for release of medical records. The trial court held that, as a result of the failure, Plaintiffs were not entitled to an extension of the one-year statute of limitations for bringing suit and the action was barred. Plaintiffs appeal. Upon our review, we find that Plaintiffs substantially complied with the requirements of section 29-26-121 and that the Defendants have not shown that they were prejudiced by the deficiencies in the authorizations; accordingly, we reverse the decision of the trial court and remand the case for further proceedings.
Here is a link to the slip opinion: 


NOTE: This is a must-read opinion because it delves into the intricacies of presuit notice as contemplated by Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121, and its nuances.

Also, it confounds me that the courts of 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 because because doing that is part of a covered entity's "health care operations" as defined by 45 C.F.R. sections 164.501, -502(b), -.514(d).

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. 



https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/privacy/guidance/disclosures-treatment-payment-health-care-operations/index.html






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