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Copeland v. Healthsouth/Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital, LP

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

August 10, 2017

FREDERICK COPELAND
v.
HEALTHSOUTH/METHODIST REHABILITATION HOSPITAL, LP, ET AL.

          Session June 29, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-000196-16 Rhynette N. Hurd, Judge

         This is an appeal from the grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellee. Following Appellant's knee surgery, Appellee provided Appellant transportation, by wheelchair van, from the rehabilitation hospital to a follow-up appointment with his surgeon. Prior to transport, Appellant signed an exculpatory agreement, releasing Appellee from all claims of ordinary negligence. Appellant was injured when he fell while trying to enter the van and filed suit against Appellee for negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Appellee, finding that the exculpatory agreement was enforceable. Discerning no error, we affirm.

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

          Donald K. Vowell, Knoxville, Tennessee, David E. Gordon and Erin L. Hillyard, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellant, Frederick Copeland.

          Diana M. Comes, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, MedicOne Medical Response Delta Region, Inc.

          Kenny Armstrong, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          OPINION

          KENNY ARMSTRONG, JUDGE

         I. Background

         On December 2, 2014, Appellant Frederick Copeland, who was 77 years old at the time, was an inpatient at HealthSouth/Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital, LP ("HealthSouth"), in Memphis, where he was recuperating from total knee replacement. Mr. Copeland had a follow-up appointment scheduled with his orthopedic surgeon that day, and HealthSouth arranged for MedicOne Medical Response Delta Region, Inc. ("MedicOne, " or "Appellee") to transport Mr. Copeland to the appointment and back to the rehabilitation facility. After the appointment, Mr. Copeland was injured when he fell while getting back into the MedicOne transport van. Prior to transport, Mr. Copeland signed a Wheelchair Van/Transportation Run Report ("Run Report"), in which he acknowledged that "MedicOne . . . is NOT covered by Medicare or Medicaid. MedicOne wheelchair vans are not an ambulance and no care will be given by the MedicOne Technician." Prior to transport, Mr. Copeland also signed a Wheelchair Van Transportation Agreement ("Agreement"). The Agreement, which was between MedicOne and Mr. Copeland, stated that it was for "transportation" services. In addition, the Agreement acknowledged that "there are inherent risks associated with such transportation which pose a risk of harm or injury." Furthermore, the Agreement stated that Client, i.e., Mr. Copeland "SPECIFICALLY RELEASES AND FOREVER DISCHARGES MEDICONE RELATED PARTIES FROM ANY AND ALL CLAIMS ARISING DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY FROM OR AS A RESULT OF THE NEGLIGENCE (BUT NOT GROSS NEGLIGENCE OR WILLFUL MISCONDUCT) OF MEDIC ONE RELATED PARTIES."

         On January 19, 2016, Mr. Copeland filed a complaint against HealthSouth and MedicOne, alleging that MedicOne was negligent in failing to: (1) "exercise reasonable and ordinary care in the transportation of [Appellant] to and from his medical appointment;" (2) "assist [Appellant] in his entry and exit of the medical transportation vehicle;" (3) "meet the standard of care required of medical transportation drivers in the transfer of patients to and from a medical transportation vehicle;" and (4) "train the particular driver in the proper transfer of patients to and from a medical transportation vehicle." Concerning HealthSouth's alleged liability, Mr. Copeland averred that

         "MedicOne was contracted by HealthSouth to provide transportation to [Appellant]. All of the allegations of negligence against MedicOne are, therefore, made against HealthSouth on the basis of agency and the doctrine of respondeat superior."

         On February 26, 2016, MedicOne filed a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment, arguing, inter alia, that Mr. Copeland had signed the Agreement, which contained a release and waiver of all claims of ordinary negligence against MedicOne. Based on this Agreement, and the doctrine of express assumption of the risk, MedicOne argued that Mr. Copeland could not recover. On April 7, 2016, Mr. Copeland filed a response, arguing that the release and waiver provision in the Agreement was an unconscionable adhesion agreement; alternatively, Mr. Copeland argued that the Agreement was one for professional services and should be invalidated.

          At the hearing on MedicOne's motion, Mr. Copeland argued that the services provided were medical services, not merely transportation services, and that the Olson v. Molzen formula for determining whether exculpatory clauses were invalid as against public policy applied, see discussion infra. Mr. Copeland also reiterated his unconscionable adhesion argument. The trial court was unpersuaded by Mr. Copeland's argument and granted MedicOne's motion for summary judgment by order of November 7, 2016. Thereafter, HealthSouth filed a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it could not be held liable for Mr. Copeland's injuries in view of the fact that MedicOne had been dismissed from the lawsuit. The record does not contain an adjudicatory order on HealthSouth's motion; however, the November 7, 2016 order granting summary judgment contains Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02 language. Thus, it appears that the order appealed is final so as to confer jurisdiction on this Court. HealthSouth is not a party to this appeal.

         II. Issues

         Mr. Copeland's brief lists 14 issues; however, it appears that Appellee's statement of the issue is a more accurate reflection of the appeal. Restated ...


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