Tennessee Court Rejects Health Care Liability Action With Improper Notice

With the passage of several recent laws in Tennessee, plaintiffs seeking to bring claims against doctors and health care facilities must meet stringent requirements for providing notice and information to potential defendants. When these procedural requirements are not met, plaintiffs can be prevented from seeking relief and have their claims dismissed. In a recent case before the Tennessee Court of Appeals, one such claim was dismissed after a plaintiff failed to provide proper notice to defendants under the laws.

The plaintiff brought claims on behalf of her husband, who died while receiving medical treatment at Cumberland Medical Center. He was admitted for fatigue, and a urinalysis was conducted. It was quickly discovered that the plaintiff’s husband was experiencing kidney failure, and he was admitted. After almost a week in the hospital, the doctors remarked that it was unfortunate that the plaintiff’s husband’s medical beliefs prevented him from receiving treatment. It was at this point that the plaintiff realized that her husband had been wrongly recorded as a Jehovah’s Witness and was not receiving any of the medical care that he needed. Although she quickly corrected the error, it was too late, and he passed away. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff alleged that she filed the requisite pre-suit notices under Tennessee law. The defendants, however, disputed this fact. They said the notices were not proper because they did not contain the required medical authorizations to allow the defendants to obtain her husband’s full medical records, and they did not list all of his medical providers. On this basis, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which the trial court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that she substantially complied with the notice requirements because she had sent the defendants medical authorizations prior to her pre-suit notice, and because her failure to list all of the medical providers was simply excusable neglect. The plaintiff was correct that under Tennessee law, plaintiffs are not required to strictly and absolutely comply with every statutory requirement before bringing a lawsuit. Instead, they must show that they did their best to substantially comply with the requirements. However, on closer review, the court of appeals observed that the medical authorizations sent by the plaintiff prior to the pre-suit notices only allowed for the disclosure of her medical records to her own attorneys but not to other individuals like the defendants’ attorneys. Accordingly, they were not compliant with the requirements of the statute. The court of appeals also held that the plaintiff’s second argument, excusable neglect, was allowable only in the most extraordinary circumstances and did not apply in the plaintiff’s case. In light of these facts, the appellate court confirmed the trial court’s ruling on the motion to dismiss and upheld the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claims.

When dealing with the emotional trauma of a death or injury due to negligence by medical professionals, the last thing that you want is to lose your claim because of procedural errors. For this reason, it is extremely important to read all of the statutory requirements carefully and take them very seriously.  A failure to abide by notice or other procedural requirements can result in the unexpected rejection of your claim. For more information on medical malpractice claims or wrongful death actions, or how to prepare your claim for a lawsuit, contact knowledgeable Tennessee personal injury attorney Eric Beasley. For more information or to discuss the circumstances of your case, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Notification Requirements for Medical Malpractice Claims in Tennessee, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, October 19, 2016

Waiver of Medical Malpractice Claims Against Tennessee State Employees, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, July 21, 2016

Sixth Circuit Remands Tennessee Medical Malpractice Claim for Widow of Veteran, Tennessee Personal Injury Blog, March 3, 2016