Tennessee Supreme Court Says That Exculpatory Agreement That Transportation Company Required Patient to Sign Was Not Enforceable

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.

The plaintiff filed suit against the transportation company in the Circuit Court for Shelby County, seeking monetary compensation for the injuries he sustained in the fall. The circuit court ruled that the exculpatory provisions of the document signed by the plaintiff protected the defendant from liability, and the court of appeals affirmed. The plaintiff then appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court.

The Court’s Decision

The Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the lower courts’ rulings and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceeding. In so doing, the court considered the totality of the circumstances and weighed the inequality of the parties’ relative bargaining power with regard to the agreement, as well as the lack of clarity in the language of the agreement and the various public policy implications involved in allowing the agreement to prohibit the patient from recovering damages from the transportation company under the circumstances.

According to the court, it made sense that public policy should protect a hospital patient such as the plaintiff under the circumstances giving rise to the litigation. The exculpatory provisions of the agreement were thus ruled unenforceable and did not, as a matter of law, bar the plaintiff’s claim.

Schedule an Appointment with an East Tennessee Medical Malpractice Attorney

If you or a loved one needs legal advice concerning a possible claim against a doctor, nurse, medical facility, or other healthcare provider, please call the Hartsoe Law Firm to schedule an appointment with experienced east Knoxville medical malpractice lawyer Mark Hartsoe. You can reach us at 865-524-5657. Please be mindful that there is a strict statute of limitations, as well as a statute of repose, in healthcare liability cases. Failure to file a timely claim will likely result in dismissal of your claim, so please do not delay in speaking to counsel about your situation.

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