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Tennessee Appeals Court Reverses Summary Judgment in Health Care Liability Case, Holding that Statute of Repose Was Extended by Child’s Pre-Suit Notice

Medical negligence can leave victims with permanent injuries and, in some cases, even result in a wrongful death.

In a recent case, both a mother and her newborn child were seriously injured due to the alleged negligence of a doctor and others during the child’s birth.

Unfortunately, their claims were not filed within the applicable statute of limitations period (which is quite short in Tennessee) due to their alleged disabilities, and the court of appeals was asked to consider whether their cases met one of the small handful of exceptions to the general rule requiring the dismissal of untimely lawsuits.

Facts of the Case

In the case, decided by the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Jackson, the plaintiffs were a mother and child who both suffered serious permanent injuries and brain damage resulting from a lack of oxygen during the defendant medical providers’ delivery of the child on June 21, 2012.

On April 17, 2015, the plaintiffs (through the mother’s conservator and the child’s guardian) sent letters to the defendants notifying them of potential health care liability claims against them, and, on September 29, 2015, they filed a health care liability action in the Circuit Court for Madison County.

The trial court dismissed both plaintiffs’ claims, holding that they were barred by the Tennessee statute of limitations or statute of repose. The plaintiffs appealed.

Decision of the Court of Appeals

The appellate court affirmed as to the dismissal of the mother’s claim but reversed as to the claim of the child. While the court agreed with the trial court that the mother’s claim was not saved by the pre-suit notice, due to the insufficiency of the medical authorizations contained in the notice (they did not permit the defendants to obtain prenatal medical records prior to the date of the delivery), the court found that the child did not have the authority to unilaterally release records of the mother’s care prior to his birth because those records were hers, rather than his.

Thus, the child’s failure to offer such a medical authorization in his pre-suit notice did not render his notice insufficient. The defendants having failed to point out any other deficiencies in the child’s pre-suit notice, the court held that the child could rely on Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(c) to extend the filing period for his claim by 120 days. Calculated using the extended date, his claim was filed within the statute of repose, which expired in October 2015.

Speak to a Knoxville Medical Malpractice Attorney

The results of medical malpractice can be devastating for a family. If you believe that you or someone close to you has been hurt due to a medical error, the Hartsoe Law Firm can help. To schedule a free consultation about your Knoxville or Maryville medical negligence or birth injury claim, call us today at 865-524-5657. We serve clients throughout east Tennessee with regard to many types of personal injury and wrongful death cases.

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Tennessee Court of Appeals Decides that Doctor Was Not Entitled to Summary Judgment in Medical Negligence Case

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