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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Opinion on Personal-injury Claims in Bankruptcy

Today the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Western Section, issued its opinion in Lane v. Daniel, No. W2012-01684-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 29, 2013).  The summary from the opinion reads as follows:
This case involves the application of the statute of limitations to an intervening personal injury complaint filed by a bankruptcy trustee after the defendants asserted that the original plaintiff, the debtor in the bankruptcy proceeding, lacked standing to bring the claim. Once the bankruptcy trustee became aware of the claim, he filed a motion for intervention, or in the alternative, for substitution pursuant to Rule 17.01 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure. The trial court granted the trustee’s motion and the trustee later filed an intervening complaint. The trial court, however, later dismissed the case, reasoning that because the first complaint was filed by a party without standing, the original complaint was a nullity. Under this theory, the trial court concluded that the action was commenced upon the filing of the trustee’s intervening complaint, which was undisputedly outside the applicable statute of limitations. Having determined that the plaintiff’s original complaint was not a nullity, we conclude that the trustee’s intervening complaint relates back to the original complaint and, thus, was filed within the applicable statute of limitations.  Accordingly, we reverse and remand.
Here's a link to the opinion:

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Medical Malpractice (n.k.a. Health Care Liability Action): Tennessee Supreme Court Holds That 120-day Extension of the Statute of Limitations Does Not Apply to Governmental Entities

The Tennessee Supreme Court just decided Cunningham v. Williamson Cnty. Hosp. Dist., No. M2011-00554-SC-S09-CV (Tenn. May 9, 2013).  The summary of the opinion reads as follows:
A husband and wife filed a claim against a county hospital alleging that the negligence of the hospital and its employees caused the death of their son. The claim was filed approximately fifteen months after their son’s death in accordance with the provisions of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 (2012). The county hospital, a governmental entity, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations of the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”). Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-305(b) (2012). The couple responded that their complaint was timely filed because Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c) extended the GTLA statute of limitations by 120 days. The trial court denied the hospital’s motion to dismiss but granted an interlocutory appeal under Rule 9 of the Tennessee Rules of Appellate Procedure. The Court of Appeals granted the Rule 9 application and affirmed the trial court’s denial of the hospital’s motion to dismiss. We granted the hospital permission to appeal. We hold that the 120-day extension provided by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c) does not apply to the plaintiffs’ claim brought under the GTLA. We therefore reverse the judgment of the trial court denying the hospital’s motion to dismiss and remand the case to the trial court for entry of an order dismissing Mr. and Mrs. Cunningham’s complaint.
Here's a link to the opinion:

NOTE: This is a follow-up post to my Dec. 1, 2012 one.  Please see that one too.

Moreover, this is a must-read opinion for any lawyer who handles health care liability actions (f.k.a. medical malpractice actions) against governmental entities.  It may, however, only be applicable to cases that accrued before October 1, 2011, which can be discerned from a careful reading of the opinion.  

Friday, May 03, 2013

Medical Malpractice (a.k.a. Health Care Liability Action): Plaintiff's Case Dismissed Due to Insufficiency of Service of Process

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just issued its opinion in Milton v. Etezadi, No. E2012-00777-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 3, 2013). The summary from the opinion states as follows:
This case presents the issue of whether proper service of process was accomplished regarding the defendant, Saeed Etezadi, M.D. Plaintiff, Will J. Milton, filed a medical malpractice action against Dr. Etezadi on April 14, 2003. The complaint and summons were served upon Dr. Etezadi’s office manager, with a notation appearing on the summons that service was accepted as “agent.” Dr. Etezadi filed an answer which, inter alia, raised the affirmative defense of insufficiency of service of process. Mr. Milton voluntarily dismissed that action and subsequently re-filed within one year of the non-suit. In connection with the second action, the complaint and summons were allegedly served upon Dr. Etezadi at his office. Dr. Etezadi filed an Answer, again raising the affirmative defense of insufficiency of service of process. Dr. Etezadi also asserted that all applicable statutes of limitation and repose had expired. He later filed a motion to dismiss. Following the hearing, the trial court dismissed the claims against Dr. Etezadi, finding that there was no service of process in either action.  Mr. Milton appeals. We affirm.
Here's a link to the opinion: