Justia Medical Malpractice Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Tennessee Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court held a doctor who was permitted to practice medicine in Tennessee under a statutory licensure exemption but was not licensed to practice in Tennessee or a contiguous state during the year before the date of the alleged injury or wrongful conduct does not meet the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-115(b) to testify as an expert witness in a health care liability action. Plaintiff brought this action against Thomas Killian, M.D. and Frist Cardiology, PLLC (collectively, Defendants) alleging that Defendants' negligent conduct caused her husband's death. Plaintiff named Dr. Jason A. Rytlewski as the expert witness who would testify that Dr. Killian deviated from the applicable standard of care in his treatment of the decedent. Defendants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Dr. Rytlewski did not have a medical license in Tennessee or a contiguous state the year before the decedent's heart procedure, as required by section 29-26-115(b). In response, Plaintiff explained that Dr. Rytlewski had been granted an exemption allowing him to practice medicine without a medical license. The trial court allowed Dr. Rytlewski's testimony. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Dr. Rytlewski was not qualified to testify as an expert as an expert witness in this health care liability case. View "Young v. Frist Cardiology, PLLC" on Justia Law

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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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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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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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Plaintiff filed a medical malpractice action against several health care providers and subsequently dismissed the lawsuit, Plaintff re-filed the action after the legislature enacted Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-121 and Tenn. Code Ann. 29-26-12. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint based on Plaintiff's failure to comply with sections 29-26-121 and 122. The trial court denied the motion, finding that Plaintiff's original suit constituted substantial compliance with the statutes' requirements and that extraordinary cause existed to excuse complaince with the requirements of section 29-26-121. The court of appeals reversed on interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statutory requirements that a plaintiff give sixty days presuit notice and file a certificate of good faith with the complaint are mandatory requirements and not subject to substantial compliance; and (2) Plaintiff's failure to comply with section 29-26-122 by filing to certificate of good faith with his complaint required a dismissal with prejudice. View "Myers v. Amisub (SFH), Inc." on Justia Law

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A patient discovered that a guide wire had been left in her vein during a prior medical procedure. She filed a medical malpractice action against the doctors who performed the procedure and the hospital where the procedure was performed. The patient voluntarily dismissed the medical malpractice suit pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P. 41 when she was informed that another party was responsible for the presence of the guide wire. The doctors named in the original suit filed a malicious prosecution action against the patient. The patient filed a motion for summary judgment alleging that the doctors could not prove that the prior suit had been terminated in their favor. The trial court denied the motion for summary judgment, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, held that a voluntary nonsuit taken pursuant to Rule 41 is not a favorable termination on the merits for purposes of a malicious prosecution claim. Remanded for entry of summary judgment in favor of the patient. View "Himmelfarb v. Allain" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was the applicable standard that courts should use in determining whether a medical expert is qualified to testify as an expert witness in a medical malpractice case. Donna Shipley filed a medical malpractice action against two doctors and a hospital, alleging various claims for medical negligence. The trial court granted the hospital and one doctor summary judgment. After disqualifying Shipley's medical experts, the trial court granted summary judgment to the remaining defendant, Dr. Williams, and dismissed Shipley's case. The court of appeals upheld the trial court's decision to disqualify Shipley's medical experts but reversed the grant of summary judgment on Shipley's negligence claims. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the trial court's judgment disqualifying Shipley's medical experts; (2) reversed the judgment of the court of appeals in part and reinstated summary judgment in Dr. Williams' favor on one of Shipley's negligence claims; and (3) vacated the trial court's order granting summary judgment on Shipley's remaining claims. Remanded. View "Shipley v. Williams" on Justia Law