BOBBIE HARJO CAUDILL, ET AL.
CLARKSVILLE HEALTH SYSTEM, GP
Session August 22, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Montgomery County No.
CC-15-CV-1578 Ross H. Hicks, Judge.
trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant medical
provider based upon the expiration of the statute of
limitations. On appeal, the appellant asserts that the
statute of limitations was tolled because at the time the
cause of action accrued, the decedent had been
"adjudicated incompetent, " as required by
Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-106. We conclude that
the appellant failed to meet her burden to show that the
decedent was adjudicated incompetent at the time required to
toll the statute of limitations. The trial court's ruling
is therefore affirmed.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Christopher Kim Thompson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the
appellant, Bobbie Harjo Caudill, individually and as personal
representative of the Estate of Austin Amos Harjo.
A. Wiseman, III and Margaret Moore, Nashville, Tennessee, for
the appellee, Clarksville Health System, GP.
Steven Stafford, P.J., W.S., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Andy D. Bennett and W. Neal McBrayer, JJ.,
STEVEN STAFFORD, JUDGE.
facts in this case are undisputed for purposes of this
appeal. On August 27, 2013, Plaintiff/Appellant Bobbie Harjo
Caudill ("Appellant") and her sister filed an
emergency petition for the appointment of a general guardian
for their father, Austin Harjo ("Decedent"), in the
District Court of Muskogee County, Oklahoma ("Oklahoma
court"). The petition alleged that Decedent had dementia
and mental illness and was incapable physically and mentally
of caring for his own needs. Appellant and her sister
appeared ex parte before the Oklahoma court. The Oklahoma
court entered the emergency order on the same day that the
petition was filed based on the finding that
"irreparable harm [would] be done to" Decedent if
the petition were not granted. The Oklahoma court also
ordered a "[thirty] day review hearing, " set for
September 25, 2013. Appellant, her sister, and Decedent's
wife appeared before the Oklahoma court on October 2, 2013.
The minutes of the October 2, 2013 hearing in the record
state that "the emergency g[uardianship] will remain in
full force and effect until further orders of [the] [c]ourt .
. .[with a further hearing] to be set ASAP/the end of October
if possible." It is undisputed that no order was ever
entered from the October 2, 2013 hearing.
eventually moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, in order to live
with Appellant. Following a fall, Decedent was admitted to
Clarksville Health System GP d/b/a/ Gateway Medical Center
("Gateway") on March 19, 2014. On March 24, 2014,
Decedent was discharged from Gateway. Decedent's
condition worsened, and he ultimately died on May 24, 2014.
15, 2015 and May 19, 2015, Appellant sent Gateway a letter
notifying the hospital of a potential health care liability
action against it. On August 7, 2015, Appellant, individually
and as personal representative of Decedent, filed a health
care liability action against Gateway. Appellant alleged
that Decedent developed pressure sores and ulcers during his
stay at Gateway that became infected, causing injury that
resulted in Decedent's death. On October 13, 2015,
Gateway filed an answer generally denying that Gateway's
negligence caused or contributed to Decedent's injuries
and raising the expiration of the statute of limitations as
an affirmative defense.
19, 2016, Gateway filed a motion for summary judgment,
arguing that because Appellant knew of Decedent's
injuries as early as March 24, 2014, the notice letter sent
on May 15, 2015, was untimely, and therefore did not have the
effect of extending the statute of limitations. As such,
Gateway argued that Appellant's complaint was untimely.
In response to the motion for summary judgment, Appellant
contended that Decedent had been adjudicated incompetent at
the time of the accrual of this health care liability action
and therefore the statute of limitations was tolled until his
death on May 24, 2015, when "his incapacity was
removed." According to Appellant, the statute of
limitations therefore began to run on the date of
Decedent's death; accordingly, the notice letter sent on
May 15, 2015, was timely and extended the statute of
limitations for another 120 days. In support, Appellant
included a copy of the August 27, 2013 emergency order of
guardianship entered by the Oklahoma court.
September 12, 2016, the trial court entered an order granting
Gateway's motion for summary judgment. Therein, the trial
court noted that, although it examined the Oklahoma order in
search of any language that would constitute an adjudication
of incompetency, the Oklahoma order contains no provision
adjudicating Decedent incompetent. The trial court further
found that the Oklahoma order was a temporary order; however,
the trial court found nothing in the record indicating what
action, if any, the Oklahoma court took at the thirty day
October 7, 2016, Appellant subsequently filed a motion to
alter or amend the trial court's ruling, attaching to the
motion the minutes from the October 2, 2013 hearing in
Oklahoma. The trial court entered an order denying
Appellant's motion to alter or amend on November 15,
2016. The trial court first noted that Appellant failed to
show why this document had not been presented in response to
Gateway's motion for summary judgment. The trial court,
however, went on to consider the merits of Appellant's
argument. The trial court nevertheless concluded that the
language of the minutes from the Oklahoma court merely
constituted the entry of another temporary order because
nothing in the record established that the Oklahoma court
ever made a determination on the merits adjudicating Decedent