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Tennessee Court of Appeals Sides with Parents with Regard to State’s Motion for Summary Judgment in Healthcare Liability Case

The requirements involved in filing an east Tennessee medical malpractice lawsuit can be very complex. It is, thus, extremely important for a would-be plaintiff in such a case to retain an attorney experienced in these matters as soon as possible after realizing that a medical error may have occurred.

There is a limited time for filing a healthcare liability action, and much is to be done in anticipation of the filing of the actual complaint. Seeking legal counsel sooner rather than later can help ensure that all of the necessary steps are completed in a timely fashion.

Facts of the Case

In a recent healthcare liability and wrongful death case originating in the Tennessee Claims Commission, the plaintiffs were the parents of a stillborn infant who was delivered in December 2017 when the mother was at about 29 weeks’ gestation. The delivery occurred at a hospital owed by the defendant state. The plaintiffs’ suit sought to assert claims for negligence and medical malpractice against several resident physicians and physicians who were employed by the defendant state at the time of the delivery. No claim was presented for damages to the plaintiff mother.

After the claim was transferred to the Claims Commission for litigation, the defendant state filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiffs had failed to comply with both Tennessee Code Annotated 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) and the applicable statute of limitations. The Claims Commission denied the defendant state’s motion, prompting an appeal.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville affirmed the Claims Commission’s denial of the defendant state’s motion for summary judgment. The appellate court phrased the issue as whether the Claims Commission erred in denying the defendant state’s motion for
summary judgment on the ground that the medical records release provided by the plaintiffs allegedly failed to satisfy the requirements of § 29-26-121(a)(2)(E), thus rendering the defendant state unable to obtain medical records of the deceased infant.

In affirming the Claims Commission’s denial of summary judgment, the reviewing court rejected the defendant state’s argument that the plaintiffs’ case should be dismissed because they failed to provide a release for the plaintiff mother’s medical records (they only provided a release for the deceased infant’s records). According to the appellate tribunal, it would have been unreasonable to have placed a burden upon the plaintiffs to predict how a medical provider would identify and archive its records and/or to anticipate how a records custodian would respond to an otherwise properly executed medical authorization.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Wrongful Death Attorney in Knoxville

Losing a loved one to an act of medical malpractice – especially when the loved one is a child – is tragic. The process of holding the negligent medical provider legally liable can be long and difficult. To talk to an experienced east Tennessee medical malpractice attorney about a potential medical negligence case, please call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657. Our office also handles car and truck accidents, slip and fall cases, product liability claims, and cases involving elder abuse. There is no charge for the office visit; we do not expect a legal fee to be paid until your case is settled or a judgment is entered in your favor.

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