LYTONIONA LEE et al.
QUINCE NURSING AND REHABILITATION,
Assigned on Briefs October 1, 2019
from the Circuit Court for Shelby County No. CT-004363-18
Rhynette N. Hurd, Judge
three years after the court dismissed the plaintiff's
healthcare liability action against the defendant, Plaintiff
filed this breach of contract action based on the same
underlying facts and circumstances. The trial court dismissed
the plaintiff's breach of contract claim as barred by the
doctrine of res judicata. We affirm.
R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit
Terrell L. Tooten, Cordova, Tennessee, for the appellant,
Keenan Carter, Memphis, Tennessee, and W. Davis Frye,
Ridgeland, Mississippi, for the appellee, Quince Nursing and
Rehabilitation Center, LLC.
G. Clement Jr., P.J., M.S., delivered the opinion of the
Court, in which Thomas R. Frierson II and Kenny W. Armstrong,
G. CLEMENT JR., P.J., M.S.
January 27, 2014, Lytoniona Lee ("Plaintiff") filed
a complaint as the personal representative of Pearline
Small's estate against Quince Nursing and Rehabilitation
Center, LLC ("Defendant") in Shelby County Circuit
Court for wrongful death, violations of the Tennessee
Healthcare Liability Act, violations of the Adult Protection
Act, intentional infliction of emotional distress,
negligence, and negligence per se ("Small
I"). Pearline Small ("Ms. Small") was
Plaintiff's aunt and resided at Defendant's nursing
facility just prior to her death. Plaintiff alleged that in
September 2012, medical staff employed by Defendant dropped
Ms. Small while attempting to dress her for a dialysis
appointment, and as a result of the fall, Ms. Small suffered
severe injuries and died.
responded to Plaintiff's complaint by filing a motion to
compel arbitration and to stay all proceedings, contending
Plaintiff signed an enforceable contract on behalf of Ms.
Small to arbitrate any and all disputes. Thereafter,
Plaintiff agreed to submit the case to arbitration, and the
court entered a consent order, referring the case to
arbitration. Shortly following, Defendant filed a Tenn. R.
Civ. P. 12.02 motion to dismiss, arguing, inter
alia, that Plaintiff filed her complaint outside of the
applicable statute of limitations. The arbitrator granted the
motion, determining that the Tennessee Healthcare Liability
Act provided Plaintiff with an exclusive remedy, and her
healthcare liability claim was barred by the one-year statute
of limitations for healthcare liability actions. The
arbitrator also determined that Plaintiff lacked standing to
bring a healthcare liability action on behalf of her
aunt's estate. On October 30, 2015, the trial court
adopted the arbitrator's order and dismissed
Plaintiff's claims with prejudice. Plaintiff did not
appeal the trial court's decision.
three years later, on September 25, 2018, Plaintiff commenced
this action against Defendant in Shelby County Circuit Court,
alleging the same underlying facts as alleged in Small
I but claiming Defendant breached its contract with
Plaintiff to provide Ms. Small with proper medical care. On
December 14, the trial court entered an order dismissing
Plaintiff's breach of contract claim based on the
doctrine of res judicata, and Plaintiff appealed. 
sole issue on appeal is whether the trial court erred in
dismissing Plaintiff's breach of contract claim as barred
by the doctrine of res judicata. This is a question of law,
which we review de novo without a presumption of correctness.
Jackson v. Smith, 387 S.W.3d 486, 491 (Tenn. 2012).
doctrine of res judicata or claim preclusion bars a second
suit between the same parties or their privies on the same
claim with respect to all issues which were, or could have
been, litigated in the former suit." Id. Res
judicata applies if (1) the judgment in the first suit was
rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction, (2) the first
suit involved the same parties or their privies, (3) the