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Health Care Liability Action Pre-Suit Notice

August 31, 2017

Health Care Liability Action Pre-Suit Notice

CaseTiffine Wendalyn Gail Runions, et al. v. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, et al.

Issue:  What happens when pre-suit notice misidentifies the proper defendant, but the defendant receives the notice?

Facts:  The original Defendants filed a motion to dismiss alleging that they did not provide medical treatment to the Plaintiff. Subsequently, the Plaintiff filed a response to the Defendants’ motion acknowledging that she had mistakenly identified a proper Defendant in this suit. The Plaintiff also filed a motion to amend her complaint attempting to remedy that mistake by substituting in the proper Defendant. After both motions were heard, the trial court denied the original Defendants’ motion granted the Plaintiff motion to amend her complaint

Appellate Decision:  The intermediate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of the Plaintiff and allowed the suit to proceed. The court noted that the proper defendant was a related entity to the parties who received the pre-suit notice: “notwithstanding the fact that [Plaintiffs’] pre-suit notice letters were not nominally directed to the [proper Defendant], the [proper Defendant] clearly had pre-suit notice.

Judge Gibson, dissenting in part, wrote that the notice was insufficient to strictly comply with the statute pursuant to Shockley v. Mental Health Cooperative, Inc., 429 S.W.3d 582 (Tenn. Ct. App. 2013).

Review Granted:  June 27, 2017.

Prediction:  Ben thinks the supreme court will likely affirm in favor of the Plaintiff. The pre-suit notice requirement is merely intended to notify a party of a potential lawsuit, which the notice here did. The requirement should not be used to dismiss potentially meritorious cases on the technicality of which entity is a proper defendant under these circumstances.