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Friday, July 16, 2021

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Trial Court's Dismissal of Case Upheld on Appeal Because Defendant-physician's Employer Not Added as a Party-defendant as Required by Statute

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has issued its opinion in Braylon W. v. Walker, No. W2020-00692-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 15, 2021).  The syllabus reads:

This appeal stems from a dismissal pursuant to Tennessee’s Governmental Tort Liability Act [(GTLA)]. Suit was filed against Appellant’s treating physician, among other defendants, for health care liability involving Appellant’s birth. The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment in favor of the physician, finding that, because the physician was an employee of a governmental entity at the time of the incident, Appellant was required by statute to name the physician’s employing governmental entity as a party defendant. Because Appellant failed to do so, the lawsuit against the treating physician could not proceed. Appellant now appeals the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Discerning no error, we affirm the trial court’s dismissal.

Here is a link to the opinion:

NOTE: This case is one that used to be called a "medical malpractice case," but is now called a "health care liability action" by statute; that change was effected by Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-101.  

This case accentuates the importance of naming a defendant "health care practitioner's" employer as a party-defendant if the case is a health care liability action that falls under the GTLA; failing to do that is generally fatal to the case, as pointed out here.  Plaintiff, however, could have added Dr. Walker's employer as a party-defendant under Tennessee Code Annotated section 20-1-119 (commonly referred to as the "comparative fault joinder statute" or just "-119") after her answer was filed indicating who her employer was at the time of the complained of negligence.  Bidwell ex rel. Bidwell v. Strait, 618 S.W.3d 309, 323–29 (Tenn. 2021) (explaining how -119 can be used to add a defendant's employer in a health care liability action covered by the GTLA),,43.  I am not sure what that was not done here.  

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