Tennessee Court of Appeals Holds that Plaintiffs Substantially Complied With Pre-Suit Requirements in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

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.

The plaintiffs filed a second complaint against the same defendants in January 2016. The defendants moved for dismissal, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to comply with Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121 and were thus not entitled to the 120-day extension of the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint, holding that the plaintiffs had failed to comply with § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E), and thus their original complaint was time-barred.

Opinion of the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville

The appellate court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. According to the court of appeals, the plaintiffs had substantially complied with the requirements of § 29-26-121, and the defendants had not shown that they were prejudiced by the deficiencies in the authorizations supplied by the plaintiffs. Dismissal on procedural grounds being disfavored in Tennessee, the plaintiffs had substantially complied with all pre-suit requirements and were entitled to a 120-day extension of the statute of limitations – thus rendering their live complaint timely.

The defendants contended that the plaintiffs had not met their procedural hurdles because they failed to send notice to the registered agent of the hospital and another defendant, that the plaintiffs had failed to include a certain doctor’s name in their pre-suit notice, and that they had provided the defendants with incomplete authorizations. The court responded by noting that the defendants had received timely notice and were not prejudiced by the fact that their agents did not receive such notice. The court also sided with the plaintiffs on the issue of whether the doctor in question has been properly identified to the defendants, finding that he had been included on a list of providers sent to the defendants in September 2015. With regard to the authorization forms complained of by the defendants, the court found that the defendants had failed to show any prejudice stemming from the alleged deficiencies in the authorizations.

Schedule a Consultation with an East Tennessee Medical Malpractice Lawyer

If you have suffered serious injury or lost a loved one due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider, you should talk to an attorney about your legal rights as soon as possible. There are important deadlines that, if not met, can result in dismissal of a case that could have otherwise resulted in substantial damages for the injured person or the family of a person who was the victim of wrongful death. To schedule a consultation with a helpful Knoxville medical malpractice lawyer, call the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., today at 865-524-5657.

Related Blog Posts

Tennessee Court Reverses Dismissal of Health Care Liability Action as to Two Defendants

Trial Court Improperly Dismissed Health Care Liability Action for Lack of Pre-Suit Notice, According to Tennessee Court of Appeals

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