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Sunday, March 18, 2018

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal Reversed as to Some Defendants

The Tennessee Court of Appeals just released its opinion in Brookins v. Tabor, No. W2017-00576-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. May 8, 2018).  The syllabus from the slip opinion states as follows:
A plaintiff filed a health care liability complaint in 2015 against several physicians and entities that he later non-suited in order to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements set forth in Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a). The plaintiff then filed a second complaint against the same defendants, relying on the saving statutes of Tenn. Code Ann. § 28-1- 105 and Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(c) to extend his statute of limitations. The plaintiff’s wife joined him as a plaintiff in the second complaint. The defendants filed motions to dismiss, alleging non-compliance with the pre-suit notice requirements and the statute of limitations. The trial court granted all of the defendants’ motions and dismissed the complaint. The plaintiffs appealed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against the physicians. Interpreting the complaint liberally and presuming the truth of plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the HIPAA authorizations, we reverse the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint against two of the physicians and affirm the dismissal of the complaint against one of the physicians on statute of limitations grounds. We affirm the trial court’s judgment dismissing the wife’s claims against all of the defendants.
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: We are blessed to have some really good judges and justices on our appellate courts in Tennessee.  This opinion is one example of why that is the case: it discusses presuit notice in health care liability actions (med mal cases), the saving statute, the discovery rule, etc.  It's a good read in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

New Tennessee Supreme Court Opinion: Wrongful Death Claim of Surviving Spouse Trumps Claim Made by Deceased's Children in This Intance

The Supreme Court of Tennessee just issued its opinion in Nelson v. Myres, No. M2015-01857-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Mar. 5, 2017).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads as follows:
The primary issue in this appeal is whether a surviving spouse maintains priority to file a wrongful death action when the decedent’s child has also filed a wrongful death action in which the child alleges that the surviving spouse negligently caused the decedent’s death. The trial court dismissed the daughter’s wrongful death complaint, but the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, ruling that under the circumstances presented in this case, the surviving spouse was disqualified from filing the wrongful death action. Because the wrongful death statutes do not include an exception to the spousal priority rule and because the surviving spouse did not waive his right to file the wrongful death action, we hold that the trial court properly dismissed the daughter’s wrongful death action. The judgment of the Court of Appeals is reversed and the cause remanded to the trial court. 
Here is a link to the slip opinion:

NOTE: This is a follow-up post to my January 19, 2017 blog post about this same case after the Court of Appeals issued its decision.  Here is a link to that post:

Also, this opinion, as are all opinions from the Tennessee Supreme Court, is a must-read opinion and a reminder that wrongful death claims are creatures of statute and must be construed under the canons of statutory construction.  In this instance, there is no statutory exception to spousal priority to file and maintain such an action.