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Monday, September 28, 2020

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Defendant-Physician Blamed Nurses Without Pleading Their Comparative Fault as Required by Law, Which Necessitated a New Trial, Etc.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals released its opinion today in Kanipe v. Patel, No. E2019-01211-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 28, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

This appeal arises from a health care liability lawsuit. In 2013, Sandra Kanipe . . . died from an undiagnosed aortic dissection while in the care of Dr. Pragnesh Patel, M.D. . . .  Travis Kanipe . . . , Ms. Kanipe’s son, sued Dr. Patel in the Circuit Court for Hamblen County . . . .  After a trial, the jury found in favor of Dr. Patel. The Trial Court granted Mr. Kanipe’s motion for a new trial on grounds that Dr. Patel had, through his testimony, shifted blame to a non-party despite having never pled comparative fault. After a second trial, the jury found in favor of Mr. Kanipe. Dr. Patel appeals, arguing among other things that he never shifted blame. From our review of the record, we conclude that Dr. Patel did, in fact, shift blame to a non-party when he testified in the first trial that the nurses never notified him of Ms. Kanipe’s ongoing chest pain. In view of our Supreme Court’s holding in George v. Alexander, 931 S.W.2d 517 (Tenn. 1996), the Trial Court did not abuse its discretion in ordering a retrial. We affirm the judgment of the Trial Court. 

Here is a link to the opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/kanipe_v._patel_e2019-01211.pdf

NOTE: This is a must-read opinion for any lawyer who handles tort cases governed by Tennessee substantive law where our system of modified comparative fault comes into play.  Oftentimes, defendants will try to shift blame (and fault) to nonparties in an attempt to avoid liability without complying with Rule 8.03 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure (which requires facts to be pleaded to support such a defense as well as the identity or description of any alleged nonparty tortfeasor).  As this opinion reminds us, Rule 8.03 is to be "strictly adhered to" by the courts.  Kanipe,  No. E2019-01211-COA-R3-CV, slip. op. at 14 (emphasis added) (citations omitted).    

This opinion also offers up a good explanation of Tennessee's peer review privilege and the "thirteenth juror" rule.  Id. at 15–18.  


Sunday, September 20, 2020

New Tennessee Health Care Liability Action Opinion (Nursing Home): Case Remanded to Trial Court to Determine Whether an Agreement to Arbitrate Was Formed Under Federal Arbitration Act

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently issued its opinion in Manley v. Humboldt Nursing Home, Inc., No. W2019-00131-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 17, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

After a nursing home resident died, her daughter filed a wrongful death action against the facility. The nursing home moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement signed by the daughter when her mother was admitted to the facility. The daughter claimed that she lacked authority to sign the arbitration agreement for her mother. The trial court agreed and denied the motion to compel. On appeal, we conclude that the Federal Arbitration Act required the trial court to resolve the issue of whether an agreement to arbitrate had been formed. Because the nursing home failed to establish an agreement to arbitrate had been formed with the patient, we affirm. 

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

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

NOTE: This opinion, like my prior post, offers a good explanation of arbitration in Tennessee.  It also offers a good discussion of agency (implied and apparent).  A good read.  



New Tennessee Health Care Liability Action Opinion (Nursing Home): Trial Court's Denial of Motion to Compel Arbitration Reversed on Appeal

The Tennessee Court of Appeals recently released its opinion in Stokes v. Allenbrooke Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, No. W2019-01983-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 15, 2020).  The syllabus reads:

In this health care liability action, the defendant moved to compel arbitration based upon an agreement entered into between the parties that provided for binding arbitration. The plaintiff opposed the defendant’s motion, taking specific umbrage at a provision in the parties’ agreement that indicated the expenses of arbitration would, by default, be subject to a [fifty-fifty] split. Contending that he was unable to pay for arbitration expenses, the plaintiff opposed enforcement of the arbitration agreement by advancing a cost-based unconscionability defense. Although the defendant acted to relieve the plaintiff of this asserted burden by offering to pay for the costs of arbitration, the trial court held that the subject fee-splitting provision in the agreement was unconscionable and denied the motion to enforce the agreement and compel arbitration. For the reasons stated herein, while we agree with the trial court that, under the facts of this case, the fee-splitting provision was unconscionable, we hold that the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to compel arbitration.

Here is a link to the slip opinion:

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

NOTE: This opinion offers a good explanation of arbitration agreements in Tennessee and whether they are enforceable or not.  It also discusses severability in contract interpretation.  It is worth reading in my opinion.  



Wednesday, September 09, 2020

New Case on the Relation Back of Amended Complaints Under Rule 15 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure

Today, the Tennessee Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Hensley v. Stokely Hospitality Properties, Inc., No. E2019-02146-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Sept. 9, 2020).  The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

In this premises liability case, the plaintiff appeals the trial court’s dismissal of her claims against a hotel based on her failure to satisfy the notice requirements of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 15.03 for amending her complaint to add a new party. We affirm.

Here is a link to the opinion:

http://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/hensley_v._stokely_e2019-02146.pdf

NOTE: This is a darn good opinion by Judge Davis.  While this is a premises liability case, the opinion explains the relation back of amended complaints under Rule 15.03 (as well as motions to dismiss under Rule 12 and motions for summary judgment under Rule 56) of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.  This is a must-read opinion for any lawyer who practices civil litigation in Tennessee state courts.  

As a practical matter, I have found that good ways to discover who owns (or controls) realty are: (1) check the property records (deeds, leases, etc.); (2) check business licenses with the county clerk (what name is the business operating under); (3) check with the county assessor's office to see who is paying the personal and real property taxes, and (4) check those names with the Tennessee Secretary of State's records (via the Secretary's website).  One should be able to determine who owns the realty in question in a premises liability case in Tennessee by doing these things.