COVID-19 Update: We are open and serving our clients. Learn More >>>

Tennessee Health Care Liability Act Requirements Held Not to Apply to Alleged Assault by Security Officer in Treatment Facility

Under Tennessee law, a would-be Knoxville medical malpractice claimant must provide pre-suit notice and file a certificate of good faith along with his or her complaint. These requirements apply to any claims alleging health care liability.

However, it is not always clear whether a given claim is a “health care liability” claim.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiffs were a minor who had been a resident at the defendant trauma-focused residential treatment facility and the minor’s mother. The plaintiffs’ claim arose as a result of an alleged physical altercation between the minor and one of the defendant’s employees. The plaintiffs referred to the employee as a “third shift night guard,” and the defendant called him a “mental health associate.”

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit sought compensation for injuries suffered by the minor after the employee allegedly pulled the employee to the ground and stomped his foot. The defendant sought summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs had failed to comply with the requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA). The Circuit Court for Johnson County dismissed the mother’s claim with prejudice and the minor’s claim without prejudice. They appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Knoxville vacated in part, affirmed (as modified) in part, and remanded the case to the lower tribunal for further action. According to the court, a “health care liability action” is a civil action alleging that a health care provider caused an injury related to the provision of, or failure to provide, health care services. The theory of liability upon which the plaintiff’s cause of action is based does not determine whether or not it is considered a health care liability action.

Here, the factual allegations supporting the plaintiffs’ claims for vicarious liability against the defendant were that its employee pushed the minor to the ground and that he then stomped on the minor’s foot. The court found that these allegations did not claim that a health care provider was negligent in the provision of, or failure to provide, health care services. Instead, the plaintiffs’ claims were for willful assault and battery, rather than medical negligence.

However, the court found that the plaintiffs’ claims based on negligent supervision or training fell within the definition of health care services, but it found that the best remedy was to dismiss these claims without prejudice to permit refiling by the plaintiffs at a later time. The court then vacated the lower court’s order dismissing the plaintiffs’ assault and battery claims and remanded the case to the trial court.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Knowledgeable Knoxville Injury Attorney

At the Hartsoe Law Firm, P.C., we handle a wide variety of medical malpractice and other personal injury cases in Knoxville, Maryville, and other cities throughout east Tennessee. If you or a loved one needs legal advice about an injury claim, we will be glad to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case. Just call us today at 865-524-5657 to set up an appointment at your convenience. Since time is of the essence in legal matters, do not put off talking to a lawyer about your case. Waiting too long to file suit can result in the dismissal of your case – even if the defendant would otherwise have been held liable for causing the accident that led to your injuries.

Related Blog Posts:

Tennessee Supreme Court Rules in Plaintiff’s Favor as to Procedural Requirement in Medical Malpractice Case

Tennessee Court of Appeals Says County’s Third-Party Claim Against Medical Services Company Following Attack on Inmate Was Not a “Health Care Liability Claim”


Contact Information