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Thursday, June 16, 2022

New Health Care Liability Action Opinion: Motion for Extension of Time to File a Certificate of Good Faith Is Governed under "Good Cause" Standard, Etc.

The Tennessee Court of Appeals has released its decision in Estate of Vickers v. Diversicare Leasing Corp., No. M2021-00894-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 13, 2022). The syllabus from the slip opinion reads:

A nursing home resident commenced this health care liability action after she had 18 teeth extracted, after which she suffered excessive bleeding. Before suing, the plaintiff’s daughter, acting as her mother’s attorney in fact, provided each prospective defendant with a form that purported to authorize the release of the plaintiff’s health information as required by Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(a)(1). Four months later, the plaintiff filed her complaint and a certificate of good faith as required by § 29-26-122(a). The defendants responded by moving to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the pre-suit authorizations were invalid because the daughter lacked the authority to make “health care decisions” for the plaintiff. The trial court denied the motions, finding the general power of attorney authorized the daughter to release the plaintiff’s medical records. After the plaintiff filed an amended complaint to add a claim for lack of informed consent, the defendants moved to dismiss all claims set forth in the amended complaint based on the plaintiff’s failure to file a new certificate of good faith. The plaintiff argued that a new certificate was unnecessary; nevertheless, she moved for an extension of time to comply. Following a hearing, the court found that a new certificate of good faith was required by § 29-26-122(a) because the amended complaint asserted a new claim. The court also denied the plaintiff’s motion for an extension of time to comply on the ground that the plaintiff failed to establish “extraordinary cause” to justify an extension. Based on these findings, the court granted the defendants’ motions to dismiss all claims. This appeal followed. We agree that a new certificate of good faith was required; however, we find that the trial court applied an incorrect legal standard to deny the motion for an extension of time in which to comply. This is because the standard applicable to a motion for an extension of time to comply is “good cause,” not “extraordinary cause,” and good cause is a less exacting standard than extraordinary cause. See Stovall v. UHS Lakeside, LLC, No. W2013-01504- COA-R9-CV, 2014 WL 2155345, at *12 (Tenn. Ct. App. Apr. 22, 2014) (citations omitted), overruled on other grounds by Davis ex rel. Davis v. Ibach, 465 S.W.3d 570 (Tenn. 2015). Accordingly, this issue, along with the trial court’s decision to dismiss the entire amended complaint, are vacated and remanded for further consideration by the trial court. As a result, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Here is a link to the opinion:

NOTE: This is an informative read for any lawyer who handles Tennessee health care liability actions (f/k/a medical malpractice cases). It lets one know when an new certificate of good faith is needed and how that is to be handled if not filed with the complaint or an amended complaint (under a "good cause" standard), etc. It also offers a great analysis of when an attorney-in-fact may authorize the release of a principal's medical records via a general power of attorney in these types of cases. 

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