Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

A Knoxville medical malpractice case is never easy. Doctors and their insurance companies fight incredibly hard against a finding of liability, and, even if a case makes it to a jury trial, jurors can be reluctant to find that a doctor is hospital has been negligent. This much is to be expected.

However, it may come as a surprise to an average Tennessean that many medical malpractice cases are dismissed annually based not on a finding that the plaintiff failed to prove negligence but because of some technicality in the voluminous amount of paperwork that must now accompany a malpractice claim.

This is one of the many reasons that it is critically important to contact an attorney as soon as you suspect you or a family member has suffered from an act of medical malpractice; the sooner you can get started on your case, the more likely you are to be able to jump through the many “hoops” that have become part of our law through the endless lobbying efforts of the medical establishment and their insurers.

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Under current Tennessee law, claims that were once referred to as “medical malpractice” cases are now referred to as “healthcare liability” actions. Although the basic idea is the same – a doctor, nurse, or hospital breached the standard of care owed to a patient, proximately causing injury or death to a patient – the rules are more complex than they used to be.

Timing is important, as there should be strict compliance with the applicable statute of limitations and statute of repose, and there are now several pre-suit requirements (including consultation with an expert medical witness) that must be met if the plaintiff is to ever have his or her day in court.

Of course, even when all of the procedural “i”s are dotted and “t”s crossed, most medical negligence defendants will still seek to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed if at all possible.

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Every negligence lawsuit requires that the plaintiff prove certain elements, such as the existence and breach of a legal duty, proximate causation, and damages. However, a Tennessee medical malpractice claim requires even more specific proof, including expert testimony as to the applicable standard of care and the defendant’s alleged deviation therefrom.

In addition, lobbying efforts from medical associations and those who provide liability insurance to physicians and hospitals have resulted in there being additional “hoops” that a plaintiff must jump through in order to file a claim seeking compensation for a doctor or hospital’s mistake.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case filed in the Circuit Court for Green County was a woman who asserted a health care liability action against the defendants, a regional hospital and three doctors. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint due to the plaintiff’s failure to file a certificate of good faith along with her complaint. After the defendant’s motion to dismiss was filed, the plaintiff filed the certificate. The defendants then filed a purported “motion for summary judgment.” In response, the plaintiff filed a motion for voluntary dismissal (nonsuit) of her complaint. The trial court granted the plaintiff’s motion and dismissed her complaint without prejudice (which would arguably allow her to refile the action within a certain time period, while still being considered filed within the statute of limitations). The defendants appealed.

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When a state legislature makes substantial modifications to existing medical malpractice law, the supposed intent is always phrased in terms of “addressing skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates.” However, the true reason behind these changes is rarely to save doctors money on their insurance premiums; the real purpose is most likely to increase the profits of the insurance companies who service these types of claims.

In Tennessee, we had a pretty major change in our malpractice laws a few years ago. Whereas before, all it took to file a medical malpractice lawsuit was to type up a basic complaint and file it at the courthouse within the statute of limitations, there are now many more steps to the process – and many more reasons for a medical negligence claim to be dismissed on a technicality before an actual inquiry into whether the medical professional did or did not commit an act of malpractice.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a female customer who filed suit against the defendants, a male massage therapist and his “day spa” employer, seeking compensation for damages associated with the alleged therapist’s sexual assault on her during a massage that she received in April 2014. Included in the plaintiff’s complaint were claims for assault and battery, intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment against the therapist and claims for vicarious liability, negligence, and negligent supervision, retention, and training against the employer.

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It seems as though more and more Tennesseans are being hurt by acts of medical negligence in Knoxville and the surrounding area each year. Unfortunately, it seems equally true that medical providers, their insurance companies, and related entitles are forever thinking of new and improved ways to attempt to avoid liability for their actions.

If you or a person close to you has been hurt by a medical provider’s negligence, you can be sure that the defendant will take every possible opportunity to avoid being held liable for your injuries. It is consequently very important that you talk to a Tennessee personal injury lawyer about your case as soon as possible so that you will have the best possible chance for success in your case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff had undergone knee replacement surgery and was a patient at a rehabilitation hospital in Memphis. The hospital arranged for the defendant transportation company to drive him to an appointment to see his orthopedic surgeon for followup in December 2014. After the plaintiff was seated in the van, he was asked to sign paperwork that contained exculpatory language purporting to release the transportation company from any and all liability related to its services. After his appointment with the surgeon, the plaintiff fell while attempting to get back into the van.

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The right to a fair trial is one of the most important components of the American judiciary system. This is true regardless of whether one is the plaintiff or the defendant or whether the case is criminal or civil.

If a litigant believes that some impropriety has taken place that could prejudice his or her at trial later on, he or she may file a motion to recuse the trial court judge, as happened in a recent Tennessee wrongful death lawsuit. Of course, such a motion is not automatically granted, as the moving party must have valid reasons for the request.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case filed in the Circuit Court for Davidson County, the plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who allegedly died as a result of an act of medical negligence committed by the defendant health care provider. The plaintiff filed suit, both individually and as surviving spouse, seeking monetary compensation for the decedent’s death. The defendant filed a motion for partial summary judgment, which the trial court judge indicated that he was going to deny on the basis that there were disputes over material facts. The judge’s law clerk allegedly stopped the plaintiff’s counsel in the hallway after the hearing and asked him to submit an order denying the defendant’s motion. Continue reading

Like other personal injury and wrongful death cases, a Knoxville medical malpractice lawsuit usually sounds in negligence. In order to prove negligence, the plaintiff must prove four things:  that the defendant owed a certain duty of care, that the duty was breached, that the plaintiff was harmed, and that there was a causal link between the defendant’s breach of duty and the plaintiff’s damages.

Failing to prove any one of these elements by a preponderance of the evidence will result in the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Facts of the Case

Filing an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit is a complicated and demanding process. Not only is the plaintiff required to file a formal complaint (as is required in every personal injury and wrongful death case), but there are other requirements, as well.

Whether or not a plaintiff has performed all of the procedural requirements to proceed with a medical negligence case is often a subject of disagreement. When this happens, the trial court judge must decide whether there has been compliance with the applicable rules. A party displeased with the trial court’s ruling has the option of seeking an appellate court’s review. This is a very important issue because failure to comply with the applicable procedural rules can mean dismissal of the plaintiff’s complaint.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a case recently considered by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville were the parents, surviving minor children, and estate of a woman who died after being found unresponsive in her room at the defendant hospital. The hospital specialized in in-patient psychiatric care, including detoxification from alcohol and controlled substances and suicidal ideation. The plaintiffs filed their first complaint against the hospital and others in October 2014, but voluntarily dismissed it in January 2015. Continue reading

There’s an expression to the effect that sometimes one can “win the battle, but lose the war.” This can happen in the legal field, including in an east Tennessee medical malpractice case. A recent appellate case from Coffee County is illustrative. A widow won her medical malpractice case against a negligent hospital in the trial court, but the appellate court found an error in an additur to the verdict by the trial court judge.

The war continues, with the next step being a retrial, during which both parties will be allowed to present their respective evidence to a different pool of jurors.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was the widow of a man who passed away in 2012 while a patient at a hospital owned by the defendant. The man was admitted to the hospital for treatment of kidney stones. By the next morning, his life was in peril; he was not breathing and had to be resuscitated. Unfortunately, the man suffered a brain injury during this time and died a few days later after life support was removed. The widow filed suit in the Circuit Court of Coffee County, alleging that the defendant was vicariously liable for the hospital staff’s negligence and seeking to recover damages for her husband’s injuries and wrongful death. Included in the plaintiff’s complaint were allegations that the defendant failed to establish appropriate procedures for the management of a patient-controlled analgesia pain pump (PCA pump) and failed to educate its employees on the potential effect of opioid therapy on sedation and respiratory depression.

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In an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit, the plaintiff must do more than simply file a claim in the manner that is generally required in a negligence case. Instead, he or she must also provide certain pre-suit notice to the defendant(s) and supply the defendant(s) with a medical authorization form so that he or she may review the plaintiff’s medical records. Failing to comply with each and every one of these requirements will usually result in the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who sued several defendants in January 2015, alleging that he had been a victim of medical malpractice in regard to a failed hip replacement. According to the plaintiff, he had gotten an infection after the procedure and had suffered kidney failure. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed (“nonsuited”) some of the defendants in his first lawsuit; the trial court later dismissed the complaint against the remaining defendants without prejudice, for lack of prosecution.

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