November 1, 2016 Session
from the Circuit Court for Putnam County No. 2016-CV-17
Jonathan L. Young, Judge
appeal concerns the dismissal of a health care liability
action for noncompliance with the Health Care Liability Act,
specifically Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121 (Supp.
2016). Before filing this action, the plaintiff gave timely
written pre-suit notice of her health care liability claim,
including the required medical authorizations, to all
potential defendants. But when she filed her complaint, the
plaintiff failed to provide copies of the medical
authorizations as required by statute. Both defendants filed
motions to dismiss based on the missing documents. The trial
court determined that the plaintiff had substantially
complied with the statute and that the defendants were not
prejudiced by the omission. Even so, the court dismissed the
complaint with prejudice after concluding that strict
compliance with the statute was required when the defendant
was a governmental entity. Upon review, we conclude that
substantial compliance with the documentation requirement in
Tennessee Code Annotated § 29-26-121(b) is sufficient
even when the defendant is a governmental entity. Thus, we
reverse the dismissal of the complaint.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Brandon J. Cox and Sarah J. Cripps, Smithville, Tennessee,
for the appellant, Sandra Kay Clary.
Cynthia A. Wilson, Cookeville, Tennessee, for the appellees,
Deidra A. Miller, and Cookeville Regional Medical Center
Neal McBrayer, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in
which Andy J. Bennett and Richard H. Dinkins, JJ., joined.
NEAL McBRAYER, JUDGE
January 15, 2015, Sandra Kay Clary was admitted to the
intensive care unit at Cookeville Regional Medical Center
("CRMC") with a diagnosis of "sepsis related
to community acquired pneumonia, acute renal failure, and
hyponatremia." According to Ms. Clary, a nurse at CRMC,
Deidra Miller, negligently administered a Lovenox injection,
causing complications that necessitated extensive medical
treatment and resulted in pain and suffering and permanent
September 4, 2015, Ms. Clary provided written notice of her
health care liability claim to both CRMC and Ms. Miller,
along with a HIPAA-compliant medical
authorization. See Tenn. Code Ann. §
29-26-121(a)(1) (2012). On January 20, 2016, Ms. Clary filed
this health care liability action against CRMC and Ms. Miller
(collectively, "Defendants") in the Circuit Court
for Putnam County, Tennessee. Ms. Clary also submitted a
certificate of good faith and an affidavit certifying that
pre-suit notice, including HIPAA-compliant medical
authorizations, was served on Defendants as required by
statute. Id. §§ 29-26-121(a)(4), -122
(2012). Copies of the pre-suit notice and proof of service
were attached to the affidavit. Although HIPAA-compliant
medical authorizations were provided to Defendants with the
pre-suit notice, copies of the authorizations were not filed
with the complaint.
challenged Ms. Clary's compliance with the pre-suit
notice statute by filing Rule 12.02 motions to dismiss based
on the omitted medical authorizations. Tenn. R. Civ. P.
12.02(1). Ms. Clary filed the missing authorizations on March
April 7, 2016, the court dismissed the complaint with
prejudice. The court determined that Ms. Clary only
substantially complied with the statute and that she failed
to demonstrate extraordinary cause for her noncompliance. The
court found that Defendants were not prejudiced by Ms.
Clary's substantial ...