Justia Health Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order entered by the trial court in this case, holding that Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(f) is unconstitutional as enacted to the limited extent that it divests trial courts of their inherent discretion over discovery and that the statute can be elided to make it permissive and not mandatory upon trial courts. Plaintiff filed this healthcare liability wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the decedent alleging that Defendant's negligent treatment of the decedent resulted in the decedent's death. During discovery, Defendants filed a motion for a qualified protective order pursuant to section 29-26-121(f), which allows defense counsel to conduct ex parte interviews with patients' non-party treating healthcare providers in a healthcare liability lawsuit. In response, Plaintiff argued that the statute is unconstitutional because it deprives the trial court of its inherent authority over court proceedings. The trial court entered a written qualified protective order allowing the interviews. The Supreme Court vacated the qualified protective order, holding (1) section 29-26-121(f) impermissibly intrudes on the authority of the judiciary over procedural matters; and (2) the unconstitutional portion of the statute may be elided, and the statute as elided is constitutional. View "Willeford v. Klepper" on Justia Law

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In this healthcare liability action, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court denying Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend after concluding that Plaintiffs' sole expert witness was not competent to testify on causation and granting summary judgment to Defendant, holding that the trial court's decision was within the range of acceptable alternative dispositions of the motion to alter or amend. In Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend Plaintiffs proffered causation testimony from a new expert witness. The trial court denied the motion. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court abused its discretion. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the judgment of the trial court, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the trial court's denial of Plaintiffs' motion to alter or amend was an abuse of discretion because the trial court's decision was within the parameters of the court's sound discretion. View "Harmon v. Hickman Community Healthcare Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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In this case alleging health care liability claims, the trial court erred by allowing Plaintiff to amend her complaint after the expiration of the statute of limitations to substitute as a defendant a health care provider to which Plaintiff had not sent pre-suit notice. The Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the trial court and court of appeals, holding that Plaintiff did not comply with the mandatory pre-suit notice provision of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(1), because she did not give written pre-suit notice of the potential claim to the health care provider she later sought to substitute as a defendant after the expiration of the statute of limitations. View "Runions v. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District" on Justia Law

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A potential plaintiff who provides pre-suit notice to one potential defendant is not required under Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) to provide the single potential defendant with a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization. Plaintiff sent a pre-suit notice of her healthcare liability claim to a single healthcare provider and included a medical authorization. Dr. Radwan Khuri moved to dismiss the case, asserting that Plaintiff had failed to povide a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization under section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E). The trial court granted Dr. Khuri’s motion and dismissed the complaint, concluding that the authorization provided by Plaintiff did not substantially comply with HIPAA or with the requirements of section 29-26-121(a)(2)(E) and that Defendant was prejudiced by Plaintiff’s deficient authorization. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, holding that a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization was not required in this case because Plaintiff’s pre-suit notice was sent to a single provider. View "Bray v. Khuri" on Justia Law

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A Hospital brought this lawsuit against a TennCare managed care organization (MCO), alleging that the MCO had not paid the Hospital all it was due for emergency services provided to the MCO’s TennCare enrollees. The MCO counterclaimed, seeking recovery of alleged overpayments made pursuant to the TennCare regulations. Thereafter, the MCO filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the Uniform Administrative Procedures Act (UAPA) required the Hospital to exhaust its administrative remedies by bringing its claims before TennCare prior to filing suit. The trial court agreed and dismissed the Hospital’s complaint and the MCO’s counterclaim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the UAPA requires exhaustion of administrative remedies in this matter to the extent that resolution of the parties’ claims would require the trial court to render a declaratory judgment concerning the validity or applicability of TennCare regulations; but (2) while the UAPA prohibits the trial court from rendering such declaratory relief absent exhaustion of administrative remedies, it does not address claims for damages. Remanded to the trial court with directions to hold the parties’ damage claims in abeyance pending resolution of administrative proceedings regarding the validity or applicability of the TennCare regulations at issue. View "Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hosp. Auth. v. UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed this action against Defendant, a licensed clinical social worker, alleging negligence, negligence per se, and intentional infliction of emotional distress for providing counseling services for their minor daughter without their consent. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss based on Plaintiffs’ failure to comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”). Plaintiffs responded that their claims were not subject to the THCLA’s procedural requirements because their claims sounded in ordinary negligence. The trial court dismissed all of Plaintiffs’ claims, concluding that the THCLA encompassed Plaintiffs’ claims because they related to the provision of “health care services” by a “health care provider.” The Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s order and remanded, concluding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the Supreme Court’s analysis in determining if Plaintiffs’ claims sounded in ordinary negligence or health care liability. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals, holding (1) the Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, which amended the THCLA, statutorily abrogated the Court’s decision in Estate of French; and (2) Plaintiff’s complaint was subject to the THCLA, which required them to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith. View "Ellithorpe v. Weismark" on Justia Law

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Decedent died following complications that arose when she received anesthesia. Decedent's husband (Plaintiff) filed suit against various health care providers, including Defendant, which contracted with the hospital to provide anesthesia services to its obstetric patients. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of its corporate owner and president, a medical doctor, who was on call the night Decedent received the anesthesia but refused to come to the hospital to administer the anesthesia. Defendant failed to raise the statute of repose as a defense to the vicarious liability claim. After a jury trial, the trial court set aside the verdict for Defendants and granted a new trial. Defendant then moved to amend its answer to assert a repose defense and to dismiss the case based on the statute of repose. The trial court denied Defendant's motions, ruling that Defendant had waived the statute of repose defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendant failed to timely raise the statute of repose as an affirmative defense. View "Pratcher v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hosps." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a claim against a county hospital (Hospital) alleging that the negligence of the hospital and its employees caused the death of their son. The claim was filed fifteen months after Plaintiffs' son's death. Hospital, a governmental entity, filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations of the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA). Plaintiffs argued that their complaint was timely filed because Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121(c) extends the GTLA statute of limitations by 120 days. The trial court denied Hospital's motion to dismiss but granted an interlocutory appeal. The court of appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to dismiss. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the 120-day extension provided by section 29-26-121(c) did not apply to Plaintiffs' claim brought under the GTLA. Remanded for entry of an order dismissing the complaint. View "Cunningham v. Williamson County Hosp. Dist." on Justia Law

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When the nursing staff at the assisted living facility where Mable Farrar lived did not give Farrar an over-the-counter medicine for constipation as often as her doctor had prescribed, Farrar became constipated. Thereafter, Farrar's doctor notified the staff at the facility to give Farrar three to four enemas each day. A facility nurse gave Farrar only two enemas in three days. Farrar subsequently died of a perforated colon. Farrar's daughters filed a wrongful death action against the nurse who gave the enemas, the director of nursing at the facility, the owner of the facility, and the facility's management company. The jury found the management company fifty percent at fault based on its failure to provide sufficient personnel at the facility. The court of appeals reversed the jury verdict against the management company, finding that there was no material evidence that staffing deficiencies proximately caused Farrar's death. The Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and reinstated the jury verdict, holding that material evidence supported the jury's finding that the management company's conduct was a substantial factor in causing Farrar's death. Remanded for review of the award of punitive damages. View "Wilson v. Americare Sys., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners suspended Dr. Joseph Rich's medical license for one year and imposed other conditions after finding that, among other things, the physician had violated Tenn. Code Ann. 63-6-214(b)(1)(4) and (12). The chancery court affirmed the Board's judgment. The court of appeals reversed because the Board failed to articulate the applicable standard of care in its deliberations. The Supreme Court (1) held that the Board was required by Tenn. Code Ann. 63-6-214(g) to articulate the applicable standard of care in its deliberations; (2) vacated the ruling of the trial court to the extent that it affirmed the Board's decision that Rich had violated sections 63-6-214(b)(1)(4) and (12); (3) vacated the judgment of the court of appeals to the extent it reversed the Board's findings that Rich violated sections 63-6-214(b)(1)(4) and (12); and (4) rather than reversing the Board's findings of violations, remanded the matter to the Board with instructions to conduct deliberations based on the existing record and articulate the applicable standard of care as required by the statute.