C.D. et al.
KEYSTONE CONTINUUM, LLC dba MOUNTAIN YOUTH ACADEMY
Session August 8, 2017
from the Circuit Court for Johnson County No. CC-15-CV-7 Jean
A. Stanley, Judge
plaintiff, C.D., a minor, was a resident of Mountain Youth
Academy, a trauma-focused residential treatment facility,
when he got into a physical altercation with an employee of
the defendant Keystone Continuum, LLC doing business as
Mountain Youth Academy. The employee, Jacob Spencer, is
described by the defendant as a "mental health
associate." The plaintiffs describe him as a "third
shift night guard." The minor's mother filed this
action, proceeding both individually and on behalf of her
son. The complaint alleges, among other things, that Spencer
pulled the minor plaintiff to the ground and stomped on his
foot, causing him injury. Defendant moved to dismiss and/or
for summary judgment, arguing that the complaint in this case
alleges health care liability claims. Defendant argued that
because of plaintiffs' (1) failure to provide pre-suit
notice under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act (the
THCLA), Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121 (Supp. 2017), and
(2) their failure to file a certificate of good faith with
the complaint, id. § 29-26-122, the lawsuit
should be dismissed with prejudice. The trial court held that
plaintiffs' claims sounded in health care liability. It
dismissed the mother's action with prejudice. The court
also dismissed the minor's action, but did so without
prejudice. Defendant appeals, arguing that the
minor's action should have been dismissed with prejudice.
The plaintiffs also present issues. They argue that the trial
court erred in ruling that their claims are based upon health
care liability. Additionally and alternatively, plaintiffs
argue that their claims fall within the "common
knowledge" exception to the general requirement of
expert testimony in a health care liability action. We hold
that plaintiffs' claims for assault and battery are
unrelated to the provision of, or failure to provide, health
care services. As a consequence of this, we hold that the
plaintiffs' assault and battery claims do not fall within
the ambit of a "health care liability action" as
defined by the statute. We further hold that plaintiffs'
direct claims against the defendant, for negligent
supervision and/or training of its employees, are health care
liability claims but ones involving matters that ordinary
laypersons will be able to assess by their common knowledge.
Hence, expert medical testimony is not required. The trial
court's judgment dismissing the plaintiffs' claims
for assault and battery is vacated. We further hold that
mother's failure to provide the defendant with pre-suit
notice mandates a dismissal of her claim for negligent
supervision and/or training, but that dismissal should have
been without prejudice rather than with prejudice.
Accordingly, the trial court's judgment on this part of
mother's claim is modified to reflect that the dismissal
is without prejudice. We affirm the trial court's
judgment dismissing the minor's claim of negligent
supervision and/or training and further affirm the trial
court's judgment that this dismissal is without
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Court Vacated in Part and Affirmed in Part as Modified; Case
Elizabeth M. Hutton and Stephanie E. Stuart, Johnson City,
Tennessee, for the appellant, Keystone Continuum, LLC, dba
Mountain Youth Academy.
C. Jessee, Johnson City, Tennessee, for appellees, C.D., by
and through his mother, J.D., and J.D., individually.
Charles D. Susano, Jr., J., delivered the opinion of the
court, in which Richard H. Dinkins, and Thomas R. Frierson,
II, J., joined.
CHARLES D. SUSANO, JR., JUDGE
minor plaintiff was twelve or thirteen years old at the time
of the incident. His affidavit summarizes his allegations of
In 2013, my mother filed a [p]etition asserting that I was an
unruly child. I was served with the [p]etition and a hearing
was held on the [p]etition. The matter was continued to
determine whether my behavior would improve.
Later, in September 2013, I become defiant towards my mother.
I also pushed my mother and her boyfriend at the time. I
called the police. When the police officers came, I became
defiant towards the officers and spit on one of the officers.
I was placed under arrest by the officers and taken to
juvenile detention. Two days later, a hearing was held before
the Juvenile Court for Washington County, Tennessee. . . . At
the hearing, the judge ordered that my mother take me to
Mountain Youth Academy. I was given one day to pack my
belongings and then my mother took me to Mountain Youth
I did not know how long I would have to stay at Mountain
Youth Academy, but I understood that I would be on "lock
down" and that I could only have visitors on the
Jacob Spencer was a third shift night guard. It was his
responsibility to take me from my room to the bathroom so I
could get ready for the day (brush my teeth, etc.). Jacob
Spencer never counseled me or participated in any group
counseling sessions with me.
On March 18, 2014,  I asked Jacob if I could get my hygiene
box, which contained my toothbrush. Jacob would not let me
get my hygiene box and I became upset and started hitting
things. Jacob then went into my room and started taking my
personal items, which made me more upset. Jacob tried to put
me in a hold and I accidentally tore the cuff on his sleeve.
Jacob grabbed my right shoulder and pushed the back of my
left shoulder, causing me [to] turn and fall to the ground.
As I was lying on the ground, Jacob stomped on my right foot.
added; numbering in original omitted.)
filed a "motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary
judgment." It argued that all of the plaintiffs'
claims are health care liability causes of action, and that
plaintiffs' failure to provide pre-suit notice and
include a certificate of good faith with the complaint is
fatal to their action. The trial court held that the claims
are health care liability actions and dismissed the
mother's action with prejudice, and the minor
plaintiff's action without prejudice. Defendant timely
filed a notice of appeal.
defendant raises the issue of whether the trial court erred
in refusing to dismiss the minor plaintiff's action with
prejudice. The plaintiffs raise the issue of whether the
trial court erred by holding that their suit was one for
health care liability.
well-established general rule is that "[a] motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim is the proper method for
challenging whether a plaintiff has complied with the
THCLA's pre-suit notice and certificate of good faith
requirements." Youngblood ex rel. Estate of Vaughn
v. River Park Hosp., LLC, No. M2016-02311-COA-R3-CV,
2017 WL 4331042, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App., filed Sept. 28,
2017), quoting Ellithorpe v. Weismark, 479 S.W.3d
818, 823 (Tenn. 2015); Myers v. AMISUB (SFH), Inc.,
382 S.W.3d 300, 307 (Tenn. 2012). Following a hearing on
defendant's initial motion to dismiss and/or for summary
judgment, the trial court entered an order stating:
upon the filings in this matter and argument of counsel the
Court finds that there is insufficient evidence before the
Court to make a ruling at this time. The Defendant's
Motion may be reset for hearing once there has been
the entry of this order, the plaintiffs filed several
affidavits in support of their position. Defendant had
earlier filed a statement of undisputed material facts based
upon two other affidavits, pursuant to Tenn. R. Civ. P.
56.03. Under Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02,
[i]f, on a motion asserting the defense numbered (6) to
dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
granted, matters outside the pleading are presented to and
not excluded by the court, the motion shall be treated as one
for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56,
and all parties shall be given reasonable ...