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Youngblood ex rel. Estate of Vaughn v. River Park Hospital, LLC

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 28, 2017

NANCY YOUNGBLOOD EX REL. ESTATE OF DANIEL VAUGHN
v.
RIVER PARK HOSPITAL, LLC

          May 17, 2017 Session

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Warren County No. 559 Larry B. Stanley, Judge

         On July 11, 2015, Daniel Vaughn, an 86-year-old patient, was recovering from surgery in the intensive care unit of the defendant River Park Hospital. A nurse brought Mr. Vaughn some coffee, after which she left the room. He spilled the coffee on himself, suffering burns to his body. Nancy Youngblood, the executor of Mr. Vaughn's estate, brought this action alleging that, given his condition, he "should not have been left alone to manage an extremely hot beverage." River Park, arguing that her claim is a health care liability action subject to the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (THCLA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101 et seq. (2012 & Supp. 2017), moved to dismiss based on plaintiffs failure to provide pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith as required by the THCLA. Plaintiff argued that her claim does not fall within the definition of a "health care liability action." The trial court disagreed and dismissed her action. We hold that the trial court correctly held her claim to be a health care liability complaint. Accordingly, we affirm.

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

          John Robert Toy II, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for the Appellant, Nancy Youngblood, Executrix of the Estate of Daniel Vaughn.

          Bryan Essary and Lee T. Nutini, Nashville, Tennessee, for the Appellee, River Park Hospital, LLC, dba River Park Hospital.

          Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which J. Steven Stafford, PJ., W.S., and Brandon O. Gibson, J., joined.

          OPINION

          CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE

         I.

         Mr. Vaughn fell and broke his hip on July 10, 2015. He went to River Park and was scheduled for immediate surgery. It is not clear from the complaint whether the surgery took place on July 10 or July 11, but on the later date, a doctor informed his family that the surgery went well. That same day, the nurse brought him a cup of coffee in his intensive care unit. The essence of plaintiff s claim, as quoted from the complaint, is as follows:

Mr. Vaughn was an 86 year old man; who was in ICU following a major surgery; was on pain medication; had visible tremors in his hand; and had an 02 monitor on his index finger. Mr. Vaughn should not have been left alone to manage an extremely hot beverage.

(Reformatted with paragraph numbering in original omitted.)

         It is undisputed that plaintiff did not provide pre-suit notice to River Park. Such notice is required of "any person . . . asserting a claim for health care liability." Term. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a)(1). Furthermore, she did not file a certificate of good faith with the complaint. Again, this is a requirement "[i]n any health care liability action in which expert testimony is required by § 29-26-115." Term. Code Ann. § 29-26-122(a). Following a hearing, the trial court dismissed plaintiffs action with prejudice, succinctly stating that "the allegations of negligence . ...


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