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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Refiled Suit Upheld on Appeal Due to Failure to Provide Statutorily Required Presuit Notice of Second Suit

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its opinion in Byington v. Reaves, No. E2020-01211-COA-R3-CV.  Here is the syllabus from the slip opinion:

This is a health care liability case. The trial court granted Appellees’ motion to dismiss because Appellant failed to provide Appellees with the proper pre-suit notice under Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(1). Discerning no error, we affirm.

Here is the link to the slip opinion:  

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/debra_sue_byington_v._jamie_reaves_d.o._et_al..pdf.

NOTE: Procedurally, this case is mess.  In a nutshell, the suit that is the subject of this appeal, which was plaintiff's second suit against the defendants, was dismissed because the plaintiffs failed to send to the defendants the statutorily required presuit notice letters.  Byington, slip op. at 4–5.  

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Grant of Relief Under Rule 60.02, Tenn. R. Civ. P., Reversed on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its decision in Mack v. Baptist Memorial Hospital, No. W2020-00809-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 30, 2021).  The syllabus form the slip opinion reads:

This appeal arises from a health care liability action. Darryl G. Rush-Mack . . . died while receiving care at Baptist Memorial Hospital . . . .  Alvin Mack . . . , Kevin Mack, and Darwisha Mack Williams . . . sued the Hospital and Dr. Aaron Kuperman . . . in the Circuit Court for Shelby County . . . .  Defendants filed motions to dismiss, which the Trial Court granted. Thirty days from entry of the order passed without Plaintiffs filing a notice of appeal. Plaintiffs later filed a motion to set aside pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 60.02 asserting that the order was not stamped to be mailed until six days after it was filed and it went to a PO Box Plaintiffs’ counsel does not use for business. The Trial Court granted the motion and entered a new order of dismissal, from which Mr. Mack appeals. We find that Mr. Mack failed to meet the clear and convincing evidentiary burden necessary for Rule 60.02 relief; indeed, the Trial Court relied only upon statements of counsel rather than evidence. We, therefore, reverse the Trial Court’s grant of Plaintiffs’ Rule 60.02 motion. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/mackalvinopn.pdf.

NOTE: This case is a reminder of the high burden to meet under the clear-and-convincing standard of evidentiary proof.  


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Case as Being Time-barred Due to a Failure to Comply with Presuit Notice Requirements Upheld on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its decision in Shaw v. Gross, No. W2019-01448-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 13, 2021).  The syllabus form the slip opinion reads:

Appellant appeals the dismissal of her health care liability complaint on the basis of the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations. Because Appellant did not substantially comply with Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E), she was not entitled to an extension on the statute of limitations. The trial court’s decision that her complaint should be dismissed is affirmed. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

 https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/shawhelen2opn.pdf.

NOTE: This case is related to my Feb. 9, 2018-blog post.  Tony Duncan, New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court Reversed Due to Discovery Rule, Its Decision Vacated Because It Failed to Adhere to the Proper Summary Judgment Standard, Which Leads to a Remand by Court of Appeals, TONY DUNCAN L. BLOG (Feb. 9, 2018, 6:28 PM), http://theduncanlawfirm.blogspot.com/2018/02/new-health-care-liability-action_9.html.

Monday, April 05, 2021

New Case on Attorney Signature to Complaint: Trial Court's Dismissal Reversed on Appeal Because Signature Complied with Tenn. R. Civ. P. 11

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its decision in Smith v. Gonzalez, No. W2019-02028-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 1, 2021).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

This appeal involves a challenge to the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint. Specifically, Plaintiff contends that the trial court erred in finding that his complaint was deficient per the signature requirements in Rule 11.01(a) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated herein, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiff’s complaint and conclude it is in compliance with the requirements of Rule 11.01. 

Here is link to the slip opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/smithjohnl.opn_.pdf.

NOTE: I am surprised this appeal had to happen.  Lawyers sign for other lawyers "by permission" all . . . the . . . time!  Glad the Tennessee Court of Appeals got this one right.  


Thursday, April 01, 2021

Two New Health Care Liability Action Opinions on Same Issue: Trial Court's Grant of Summary Judgment and Motion to Dismiss Reversed on Appeal Due to Statutory Changes as They Relate to Vicarious Liability

Today, the Tennessee Court of Appeals released its decisions in Gardner v. Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital, No. M2019-02237-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 1, 2021) and Ultsch v. HTI Memorial Hospital Corporation, No. M2020-00341-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 1, 2021).  Both cases hinge on the same issue and arise from the same trial court.  The common issue being whether a principal in a health care liability action may be held vicariously liable for the acts or omissions of its employees and agents if the statute of limitations was extended as to the principal but not the employees and agents via service of presuit notice letters under Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 29-26-121.  

The syllabus from the slip opinion in Gardner reads:

A patient filed a health care liability claim against a hospital, asserting the hospital was vicariously liable for injuries she suffered as a result of the anesthesia providers’ conduct. The hospital moved for summary judgment, arguing that the anesthesia providers were not employed by the hospital and the hospital was, therefore, not liable for the anesthetists’ actions as a matter of law because the statute of limitations had run on the plaintiff’s direct claims against the anesthesia providers by the time the plaintiff filed her complaint against the hospital. The trial court granted the hospital’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint, relying on the common law set forth in Abshure v. Methodist HealthcareMemphis Hospitals, 325 S.W.3d 98 (Tenn. 2010). Acknowledging the conflict between provisions of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act and the common law, we hold that the statute prevails. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

Here is a link to the Gardner slip opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/gardner.beverly.opn_.pdf.

The syllabus from the slip opinion in Ultsch reads:

This appeal concerns the interplay between the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act [] and the common law on vicarious liability with respect to pre-suit notice in a health care liability claim against the principal only. We have determined that the provisions of the HCLA take precedence over the common law and that the plaintiff’s claims in this case were timely filed. Therefore, we reverse the decision of the trial court.

Here is a link to the Ultsch slip opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/ultsch.dennis.opn_.pdf.

NOTE: Both of these opinions offer an excellent explanation of how a vicarious liability claim may be prosecuted under Tennessee's Health Care Liability Act (f/k/a the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act). SCOTN will be asked to review these two decisions via a Rule 11 application.  It may deny review, however, because these decision are very well reasoned and jibe with applicable Tennessee law in my humble opinion.  



 

Thursday, March 25, 2021

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Plaintiff's Case Upheld on Appeal Due to Noncompliance with Statutory Presuit-notice Requirements

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its decision in Woods v. Arthur, No. W2019-01936-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 23, 2021).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

This appeal concerns the dismissal of a health care liability action for failure to comply with a pre-suit notice content requirement in Tenn. Code Ann. § 26-29-121(a)(2). The trial court determined that the plaintiff failed to provide the defendant doctors and hospital with medical authorization forms that would permit pre-suit investigation of his claims. The plaintiff contends the dismissal was unwarranted because the medical authorizations substantially complied with the statute and the defendants already had the relevant records. The defendants argue that the forms were invalid because they lacked several required elements, including a description of the purpose for which the records could be disclosed and used. We affirm.

Here is a link to the slip opinion: 

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/woodsarthuropn_3.pdf.

NOTE: As I have noted in the past, an authorization may not be needed for the defendants to share medical records.  If that ends up being true, all these decision holding that a case should be dismissed due to some defect in an authorization are wrongly decided.  Tony Duncan, New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Action as Time-barred Overturned on Appeal, TONY DUNCAN L. BLOG, Note (Jul. 3, 2018, 3:58 PM), http://theduncanlawfirm.blogspot.com/2018/07/new-health-care-liability-action.html.


Monday, March 22, 2021

New Auto Case: Out-of-state Automotive Insurance Policy Construed on Appeal: Summary Judgment for Insuror Reversed and Summary Judgment for Insured to Be Granted on Remand

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just released its opinion in Progressive Specialty Insurance Company v. Kim, No. M2019-01998-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Mar. 22, 2021).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

After being injured in a car accident, a man filed a negligence lawsuit against several defendants, including the driver of the vehicle and the company that employed the driver. The insurance company that provided insurance coverage to the company in Alabama filed a declaratory judgment action seeking a determination of whether the policy provided liability coverage for the company in the underlying tort action. After the insurance company and the plaintiff in the underlying tort action filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment to the insurance company based on respondeat superior principles. We conclude that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the insurance company because, under Alabama law, the policy provided liability coverage for the company at the time the accident occurred.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/progressivespecialtyins.co_.opn_.pdf.

NOTE: This is an excellent opinion on the doctrine of lex loci contractus (while it does not mention the doctrine specifically, the doctrine is discussed extensively in Nelson v. Nelson, 409 S.W.3d 629 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013), which is cited on page 4 of this slip opinion). In cases like this one, as a matter of contract, the law of the state where the contract was made controls, i.e., the "lex loci contractus."  Since people are becoming increasingly mobile, and because Tennessee has eight border states, this opinion is a must-read for any lawyer who handles auto tort cases in Tennessee because it explains very well how out-of-state automotive insurance polices are to be interpreted under this doctrine in a Tennessee civil action.