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Tennessee Court of Appeals Holds that Case Alleging EMT Struck Patient in the Face Did Not Require a Certificate of Good Faith Before Filing

ambulanceIn Tennessee, there are certain procedural hurdles that must be addressed in filing a cause of action under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act.

Failing to comply with these requirements can result in the dismissal of an otherwise valid claim against an allegedly negligent health care provider.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who alleged that an emergency medical technician (EMT) struck him in the face with his fist while the plaintiff was strapped to a gurney and under the EMT’s care. The plaintiff filed suit against the EMT and his employer in the Circuit Court of Knox County, seeking compensation for his injuries.

In response, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6), asserting that the plaintiff’s case was a health care liability action and that therefore he was required to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith, as required by Tennessee Code Annotated §§ 29-26-121 and 29-26-122. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Holding of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville

The appellate court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim without prejudice (presumably allowing him to file a new complaint if he desired). The court began its analysis with an inquiry into whether the trial court had drawn an improper inference regarding the reason for the EMT’s alleged assault on the plaintiff or had erred in holding that “the degree of restraint necessary to contain a patient in order to provide medical treatment certainly involves the provision of medical services.”

In reviewing the facts as alleged by the plaintiff, to the effect that the EMT had swung a closed fist at him when he was strapped to a stretcher, the court concluded that the trial court had erred in that it had inferred that the EMT was restraining the plaintiff in order to provide medical treatment, thereby justifying the EMT’s use of force. Instead, the trial court was to draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff’s favor in resolving the defendant’s motion to dismiss; thus, the lower court should have considered the “equally reasonable and plausible inference” that the plaintiff was already fully restrained when the EMT struck him.

The court went on to hold that, although the plaintiff’s claims were covered under the Act and were subject to dismissal due to his failure to provide pre-suit notice to the defendants, the dismissal should have been without prejudice rather than with prejudice. In so holding, the court sided with the plaintiff on the issue of whether he was required to provide a certificate of good faith, agreeing that expert proof would not be necessary to prove his claims. Instead, the plaintiff’s claims fell within the “common knowledge” exception to the requirement of expert testimony.

Schedule a Free Consultation with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

If you are exploring the possibility of filing a medical malpractice or other negligence lawsuit, you should talk to an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. To schedule a free consultation with the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., call us at 865-524-5657. Do not delay in seeking advice about your Knoxville, Maryville, or other East Tennessee negligence case, since your claim must be filed in a timely fashion, or it will likely be dismissed on procedural grounds.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Court of Appeals Vacates Summary Judgment to Defendants Who Allegedly Prevented Effective Service of Process on Medical Malpractice Defendant

Tennessee Court of Appeals Decides that Doctor Was Not Entitled to Summary Judgment in Medical Negligence Case