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Graham v. Archer

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

August 10, 2017

BETTY GRAHAM
v.
STACY LYNN ARCHER, ET AL.

          Session March 24, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Hamilton County No. 14-C-1100 W. Jeffrey Hollingsworth, Judge

         This is an invasion of privacy case filed by Betty Graham. It arises out of disclosures made by the defendants in an underlying health care liability action. In the underlying case, the defendants moved to dismiss Graham's case on the ground that she (1) had failed to file a statutory-mandated pre-suit notice and (2) had failed to file with her complaint a certificate of good faith, all as required by the Health Care Liability Act (the Act). Graham claims that she could not comply with the Act because the defendants failed to provide her with the relevant medical records. To demonstrate that they had complied or attempted to comply with Graham's requests for records, the defendants filed in the earlier case two affidavits detailing their response to her requests. After the dismissal of her health care liability action, Graham filed this case for invasion of privacy, alleging that the defendants had wrongfully disclosed her personal medical information by filing the affidavits in the underlying case. The trial court granted the defendants' motions to dismiss. Graham appeals. We affirm.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed; Case Remanded

          Betty Graham, Whitewell, Tennessee, appellant, pro se.

          Daniel J. Ripper, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Stacy Lynn Archer and Robinson, Smith & Wells.

          H. Dean Clements and Brie Allaman Stewart, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the appellees, Jeanne Weaver and Spine Surgery Associates P.C..

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which D. Michael Swiney, C.J., and Thomas R. Frierson, II, J., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         In August 2013, Graham filed the underlying health care liability action against two doctors and a spinal surgery center. The defendants in that action filed a motion to dismiss based upon Graham's failure to give pre-suit notice pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 and failure to file a certificate of good faith pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122. Graham responded by alleging that she had requested her medical records, but that the defendants had failed to provide those records to her. The defendants filed the affidavits of Jeanne Weaver, the office manager for the surgery center, and of Elliott Holt, the CEO of Medi-Copy Services, Inc, demonstrating that they had complied with or attempted to comply with each of Graham's requests for medical records. The court dismissed that action.

         On September 11, 2014, Graham brought this action for invasion of privacy against (1) Jeanne Weaver; (2) Spine Surgery Associates, PC, the spine surgery center where Ms. Weaver worked; (3) attorney Stacy Archer and (4) her firm, Robinson, Smith and Wells, who represented the defendants in the prior case; (5) Elliott Holt; and (6) Medi-Copy Services, Inc. She claims that, by filing the affidavits, the defendants disclosed her name, address, telephone numbers, and the identity of, and contact information for, her physicians. Graham asserts that these disclosures constitute an invasion of her privacy.

         On October 5, 2015, Jeanne Weaver and Spine Surgery Associates, PC filed a motion to dismiss. The trial court granted that motion, finding that "[t]here is no doubt that the affidavit is sworn testimony which was submitted in the previous lawsuit." The court concluded as follows:

[T]here is no doubt that the affidavit was relevant to the issue of the provision of medical records which was raised by [Graham]. As such, it cannot be used as a basis for liability as [she] tries to do in this lawsuit. On that ground alone, the motion to dismiss may be granted. However, it is also noted that the allegedly confidential information contained in the affidavit had already been disclosed in other pleadings and statements by [Graham] in the previous lawsuit. ...

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