In its opinion filed on November 30, 2016, the Court of Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville (“Appellate Court”) affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the pro se plaintiff’s medical malpractice (health care liability) claim alleged in her complaint because she failed to comply with the notice and other requirements regarding health care liability claims in Tennessee, but reversed the dismissal of her non-medical malpractice claim that was also alleged in her complaint.
The Tennessee plaintiff alleged that she was seriously injured by a chiropractor when he “jumped” on her back during a chiropractic treatment as she was lying face down on the treatment table, and by the defendant chiropractor allegedly “beat[ing]” her on her back with her medical folder as he was exiting the treatment room.
The plaintiff admittedly did not comply with the pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith requirements of the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (“THCLA”) with regard to “a health care liability claim.” However, the plaintiff contended on appeal that she was not required to comply with the THCLA as to her claim regarding the alleged battery committed by the defendant chiropractor when he allegedly beat her on her back with her medical folder, because that claim is not a health care liability claim.
The Appellate Court noted that the THCLA defines a “health care liability action” as “any civil action . . . alleging that a health care provider or providers have caused an injury related to the provision of, or failure to provide, health care services to a person, regardless of the theory of liability on which the action is based.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101(a)(1). It further states that “[h]ealth care services to persons includes care by health care providers . . . employees and representatives of the provider, and also includes staffing, custodial or basic care, positioning, hydration and similar patient services.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 29- 26-101(b). Finally, it provides, “[a]ny such civil action or claim is subject to this part regardless of any other claims, causes of action, or theories of liability alleged in the complaint.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101(c).
The Appellate Court held that the plaintiff’s first claim, involving the chiropractor allegedly jumping on her back, fits the THCLA’s definition of a “health care liability action” and therefore the plaintiff was required to comply with the THCLA’s procedural requirements in advancing it, which she failed to do. Thus, it was proper for the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s first claim due to her failure to comply with the THCLA.
With regard to the plaintiff’s second, distinct claim (that the defendant chiropractor allegedly beat her with her medical folder as he was leaving the treatment room), the Appellate Court stated that while that claim also involves injury when a chiropractor applied force to her back, it does not contain any other indication that the alleged wrongful act was related to the provision of chiropractic health care services. Rather, that claim alleges that the act took place after the defendant chiropractor finished jumping on her back. The plaintiff’s claim does not state that the plaintiff was lying on the chiropractic table when the defendant hit her in the back with her medical folder; rather, it states only that he struck her with the folder “as he walked out the door.”
The Appellate Court stated that while it is still reasonable to infer that the alleged act was related to the provision of heath care services, it is equally reasonable to infer that the act took place after the defendant finished providing health care services to the plaintiff and was leaving the appointment. As such, it is not apparent from the face of the plaintiff’s complaint that the second claim fits the THCLA’s definition of a “health care liability action.”
The Appellate Court stated that while further evidence may show otherwise, it was not prepared to hold that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would warrant relief. Therefore, the Appellate Court could not conclude that, as a matter of law, the plaintiff was required to comply with the THCLA’s procedural requirements in advancing this separate and distinct claim.
Source Lacy v. Mitchell, No. M2016-00677-COA-R3-CV
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