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Massage Therapist’s Intentional Sexual Battery Was Exempt from Certificate of Good Faith Requirement of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act

When a state legislature makes substantial modifications to existing medical malpractice law, the supposed intent is always phrased in terms of “addressing skyrocketing medical malpractice insurance rates.” However, the true reason behind these changes is rarely to save doctors money on their insurance premiums; the real purpose is most likely to increase the profits of the insurance companies who service these types of claims.

In Tennessee, we had a pretty major change in our malpractice laws a few years ago. Whereas before, all it took to file a medical malpractice lawsuit was to type up a basic complaint and file it at the courthouse within the statute of limitations, there are now many more steps to the process – and many more reasons for a medical negligence claim to be dismissed on a technicality before an actual inquiry into whether the medical professional did or did not commit an act of malpractice.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a female customer who filed suit against the defendants, a male massage therapist and his “day spa” employer, seeking compensation for damages associated with the alleged therapist’s sexual assault on her during a massage that she received in April 2014. Included in the plaintiff’s complaint were claims for assault and battery, intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, and false imprisonment against the therapist and claims for vicarious liability, negligence, and negligent supervision, retention, and training against the employer.

The defendants sought summary judgment, averring that the plaintiff’s failure to include a certificate of good faith in her complaint as required by the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act was fatal to her complaint, even though she had complied with the pre-suit notice requirements of the Act. The trial court agreed with the defendants and granted summary judgment to them, thus dismissing all of the customer’s claims with prejudice.

The Court’s Decision

The Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson affirmed in part and reversed in part. Although the court agreed with the lower tribunal that the Act applied to the customer’s claims against employer, the appellate court ruled that the requirements of the Act were not applicable to her claims against the therapist. With regard to the plaintiff’s claims against the therapist, the court opined that the Act did not apply to a cause of action based on the intentional sexual battery of a licensed health care practitioner. Thus, the plaintiff’s suit against the therapist remained viable, despite her failure to include a good faith certificate.

East Tennessee Injury Attorney Reviewing Cases

If you have been injured by a so-called health care “professional,” through negligence or intentional conduct, you have a right to assert a claim for money damages for your medical expenses, lost earnings, and pain and suffering. However, there are many procedural requirements in these types of cases, and failure to comply with even one of these many steps can result in dismissal of an otherwise valid claim. To talk to a knowledgeable Knoxville medical malpractice lawyer about your case, call the Hartsoe Law Firm at 865-524-5657 and ask for a free consultation.

Related Blog Post

Trial Court Improperly Dismissed Health Care Liability Action for Lack of Pre-Suit Notice, According to Tennessee Court of Appeals

Tennessee Court of Appeals Holds that Plaintiffs Substantially Complied With Pre-Suit Requirements in Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

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