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Tuesday, January 28, 2020

New Tennessee Health Care Liability Action Opinon: Tennessee Supreme Court Reverses the Tennessee Court of Appeals and Reinsates Trial Court's Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Case on Summary Judgment Based upon Lack of Expert Testimony on Causation; Clairifies Standard of Review as to Abuse-of-discretion Standard

The Tennessee Supreme Court just issued its opinion Harmon v. Hickman Community Healthcare Services, Inc., No. M2016-02374-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Jan. 28, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:
In this healthcare liability action, the trial court held that the plaintiffs’ sole expert witness was not competent to testify on causation and for that reason granted summary judgment to the defendant. The plaintiffs then filed a motion to alter or amend, proffering causation testimony from a new expert witness. The trial court denied the motion to alter or amend, and the plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals, in a split decision, reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion to alter or amend. This Court granted permission to appeal. A trial court’s decision on a motion to alter or amend is reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard; this standard of review does not permit the appellate court to substitute its judgment for that of the trial court. We hold that the trial court’s decision in this case was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions of the motion to alter or amend and was not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. For this reason, we reverse the Court of Appeals and affirm the decision of the trial court.
NOTE: This post is related to my July 16, 2018 post:

Thursday, January 16, 2020

New Health Care Liability Action: Dismissal of Plaintiffs' Case Upheld on Appeal: Nurse Cannot Provide Causation Testimony; Issue Waived on Appeal Because It Was Not Properly Raised

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just released its opinion in Lovelace v. Baptist Memorial Hosp. - Memphis, No. W2019-00453-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 16, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:
Plaintiff filed a health care liability action against Defendant hospital following the death of Plaintiff’s husband in 2014. The trial court granted summary judgment to the hospital on two alternative, independent grounds: that the Plaintiff’s expert witness, a registered nurse, was not competent to testify as an expert witness, and that the expert witness failed to provide causation testimony as required to prove liability. Plaintiff appealed the trial court’s ruling about the competency of her expert witness, but she failed to raise the failure to provide causation testimony as an issue on appeal. As no argument was made to challenge a distinct ground for summary judgment, we consider the argument waived and affirm the trial court’s order granting summary judgment. 
Here is the link to the opinion:


NOTE: Two things stand out from reading this opinion: first, a nurse cannot render causation testimony in a health care liability action in Tennessee.  Richberger v. West Clinic, P.C., 152 S.W.3d 505, 506 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2004), perm app. denied (Oct. 4, 2004). Second, appellate work is difficult, and can be somewhat arcane unless one does it regularly.  The abbreviation of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure is "T.R.A.P." for a reason.  However, while this case points out how waiver can occur on appeal, the lack of competent expert testimony is what killed the case.  And that is unfortunate.