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Monday, January 18, 2021

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court’s Grant of Summary Judgment to the Defendant Upheld on Appeal in GTLA Case

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Williamson v. Regional One Health, No. W2019-02213-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 15, 2021).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:
In this healthcare liability action, Appellant/patient appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee/hospital. The trial court granted summary judgment based, inter alia, on its conclusion that Appellant failed to provide evidence that Appellee’s immunity under the Governmental Tort Liability Act is waived due to some action/inaction of its employee. Affirmed and remanded.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:


NOTE: This opinion offers a good explanation of Tennessee’s law on health care liability (formerly medical malpractice) as it intersects with its law on governmental tort liability.  It is worth the read if you handle these types of cases.  



Tuesday, December 15, 2020

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court Upheld on Appeal; Tennessee Health Care Liability Act Does Not Apply to Claims for Intentional Misrepresentation, Medical Batter, Civil Conspiracy, Loss of Consortium

Last month, the Tennessee Court of Appeals released its decision in Cooper v. Mandy, No. M2019-01748-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2020).  The slip opinion reads:

The principal issue in this interlocutory appeal is whether intentional misrepresentations made by health care providers to induce a prospective patient to engage the health care providers’ services are within the purview of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“the Act”), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 to -122. The complaint filed by the patient, Donna Cooper (“Mrs. Cooper”), and her husband alleges that Dr. Mason Wesley Mandy (“Dr. Mandy”) and Rachelle Norris (“Ms. Norris”) with NuBody Concepts, LLC, intentionally misrepresented that Dr. Mandy was a board-certified plastic surgeon and, based on their misrepresentation, Mrs. Cooper gave Dr. Mandy her consent to perform the surgery. Following “painful, disastrous results,” the plaintiffs asserted four claims: (1) intentional misrepresentation; (2) medical battery; (3) civil conspiracy; and (4) loss of consortium. Defendants filed a Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12 motion to dismiss for failure to comply with the presuit notice and filing requirements of the Act, specifically Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 29-26-121 and -122. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, finding the Act did not apply. This interlocutory appeal followed. We hold that Mrs. Cooper is entitled to proceed on her claims of intentional misrepresentation and civil conspiracy because the alleged misrepresentations were inducements made prior to the existence of a patient-physician relationship; thus, the claims were not related to “the provision of . . . health care services.” See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101(a)(1). We also affirm its ruling on the medical battery claim because a physician’s misrepresentation of a material fact, if proven, may vitiate consent, and, without consent, the very act of touching Mrs. Cooper may constitute an unlawful and offensive act that is not related to the provision of health care services. See Holt v. Alexander, No. W2003-02541-COA-R3-CV, 2005 WL 94370, at *6 (Tenn. Ct. App. Jan. 13, 2005). Further, we affirm the trial court’s ruling on Mr. Cooper’s claim for loss of consortium because, as the trial court held, his claims relate to Dr. Mandy’s and Ms. Norris’s false representations of Dr. Mandy’s credentials, not to a provision of, or a failure to provide, a health care service. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court in all respects and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Here is a link to that opinion:

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

NOTE: This opinion delves into the torts of intentional misrepresentation, medical batter, and civil conspiracy; it also touches upon claims for loss of consortium.  It is a must-read decision for any lawyer whose practice is affected by Tennessee substantive law.  

Also, look for the defendants to ask SCOTN to take a look at this case.  

Saturday, December 12, 2020

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Summary Judgment for Defendant Reversed Because Plaintiff Demonstrated That There Was a Genuine Issue of Material Fact as to the Applicable Standard of Care, Its Breach, and Causation; Intervening and Superseding Cause Does Not Exist at Present

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its decision in Davis v. Ellis, No. W2019-01367-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 5, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

This is a health care liability case. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee/doctor finding that Appellant’s expert witness failed to connect the decedent’s death to Appellee’s alleged deviation from the standard of care. We conclude that Appellant presented sufficient evidence, at the summary judgment stage, to create a dispute of fact concerning deviation from the standard of care and causation. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. 

Here is a link to the decision:

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

NOTE: This is a must-read opinion for any lawyer who practices in the area of health care liability (f.k.a., medical malpractice) where the case is governed by Tennessee substantive law.  It addresses expert testimony as to the applicable standard of care, causation of injury, and intervening-superseding causes, which makes it a great primer for a new lawyer and a great refresher for the seasoned practitioner.    

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

New Opinion on the Discovery Rule and Governmental Tort Liability Under Tennessee Substantive Law

Today, the Tennessee Court of Appeals released its decision in Durham v. Estate of Losleben, No. W2019-01623-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 8, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

A Hardin County firefighter and Appellant’s husband died after their vehicles collided. Appellant alleged that the firefighter had negligently caused the accident, and thus filed tort claims against Hardin County under a theory of vicarious liability and Tennessee’s Governmental Tort Liability Act. She filed her claims more than one year after the accident, so the trial court dismissed them as barred by the applicable one-year statute of limitations. She appeals, and we affirm.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

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

NOTE: Among other things, this opinion explains the discovery rule and how it affects the running of the one-year statute of limitations in tort actions, especially in civil actions under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Act (GTLA).  This decision reaffirms the application of the discovery rule to GTLA cases, but holds that it did not apply under the facts presented herein.  This is a very informative read in my humble opinion.  


Monday, December 07, 2020

New Case on Uninsured Motorist Coverage and Amended Pleadings

The Tennessee Court of Appeals released it decision in Evans v. Croxdale, No. E2019-01880-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Dec. 2, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads: 

This appeal concerns the trial court’s summary judgment dismissal of the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurance claim filed against his employer following a car accident. We affirm the judgment of the trial court. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/kevin_e_evans_et_al_v._ricki_k._croxdale_et_al..pdf.

NOTE: This is a pretty straight forward opinion.  It offers quick guidance on uninsured motorist claims and amended pleading under Tennessee law.  

Monday, November 30, 2020

New Case Concerning Motions to Dismiss Under Rule 12.02(6) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and When a Duty Arises in Negligence Cases

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its decision in Thompson v. Southland Constructors, No. M2019-02060-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 6, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

This action involves a tragic accident resulting in the death of Tommy Smith (“Decedent”), who was working as a plumber connecting a sewer line when the trench he was in collapsed and crushed him. Decedent’s children (“Plaintiffs”) sued, among others, Focus Design Builders, LLC, general contractors for the building project, alleging negligence. The trial court granted Focus Design’s motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6). The trial court held that Focus Design did not owe a duty of reasonable care under the circumstances because Decedent’s death was unforeseeable. We hold the complaint states a cause of action for negligence and consequently reverse the judgment of the trial court.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

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

NOTE: This is a great opinion because it gives us a good overview of the current state of the law on motions to dismiss under Rule 12.02(6), Tenn. R. Civ. P., and when a duty arises in negligence cases. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

New Case on Who Is Able to Bring a Tort Claim on Behalf of a Decedent Who Died Before Suit Is Filed from Causes Unrelated to the Tort Action in Question

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Jones v. Martin, No. W2019-02047-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 20, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

Appellant and her son were driver and passenger, respectively, in a motor vehicle when they were struck in the rear by a vehicle driven by one of the Appellees. Appellant’s son later died from medical causes not related to the accident. Appellant then filed suit for injuries in her own name and as next of kin of her deceased son. Following arguments by the Appellees that Appellant had no authority to prosecute the case on behalf of her son, the trial court dismissed the claim corresponding to the injuries allegedly sustained by the son. Appellant then took a nonsuit of her remaining claim. This appeal concerns initially whether or not the judgment on appeal is a final judgment and, if so, the application of Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-5-102 to this case. Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-5-102, which provides for the survival of actions despite the death of the person wronged, specifies that the right of action shall pass “in like manner as the right of action described in § 20-5-106.” By way of that referenced authority, it is clear that a next of kin is one of the persons authorized to bring an action that survives under section 20-5-102. For the reasons set out herein, we conclude that we have jurisdiction to hear this appeal and reverse the trial court’s dismissal. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

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

NOTE: As the title of this blog post indicates, this opinion does a good job of explaining who may bring a tort claim on behalf of a decedent who dies before suit is filed from causes unrelated to the tort action in question.  Pay attention to footnote 4 and its citation to Tenn. Code Ann. sec. 20-5-104; a prerequisite to being able to revive the tort suit via the deceased's heirs is that it be shown that no person will administer the deceased's estate.   (Be mindful, too, that any recovery made in instances like the one presented in this case is property of the deceased's estate.)