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Dotson v. State

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

December 3, 2019

ANGELA DOTSON
v.
STATE OF TENNESSEE

          Session October 16, 2019

          Appeal from the Tennessee Claims Commission No. T20171857 William E. Young, Commissioner

         Plaintiff filed a complaint asserting a health care liability claim against the state and attached a certificate of good faith. The Tennessee Claims Commission found that the certificate of good faith failed to satisfy the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-122 because it was not specific as to the state health care provider. Despite this finding, the court concluded that the statute was satisfied because the complaint contained the certificate of good faith language and identified the state health care provider. The state then filed this interlocutory appeal. We reverse.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 9 Interlocutory Appeal; Judgment of the Claims Commission Reversed

          Herbert H. Slatery, III, Attorney General and Reporter, Andrée Blumstein, Solicitor General, and Heather C. Ross, Senior Assistant Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Michael Emory Large, Bristol, Tennessee, for the appellee, Angela Dotson.

          Andy D. Bennett, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John W. McClarty and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

          OPINION

          ANDY D. BENNETT, JUDGE

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Angela Dotson gave birth to a baby on June 1, 2016. Tragically, the baby died the following day from complications during the delivery. On May 26, 2017, Ms. Dotson filed a claim for damages against the state of Tennessee in the Division of Claims Administration. She based her claim against the state on the actions of one of her treating physicians during the delivery, Dr. Kiana Brooks, a resident physician and state employee.

         On August 25, 2017, the Division of Claims Administration notified Ms. Dotson that it had not been able to act on her claim within ninety days so her claim was being transferred to the Claims Commission. The clerk of the Claims Commission informed Ms. Dotson on September 6, 2017, that she must file a complaint with the Claims Commission "within thirty days of transfer of any claim to the Commission."[1] Ms. Dotson filed her complaint with a certificate of good faith on October 6, 2017, alleging that Dr. Brooks's negligence caused the death of her baby. She also alleged the negligence of other non-state employee health care providers whom she had sued in a separate lawsuit in Washington County Law Court: Dr. Selman Welt and a private hospital. Throughout her complaint, Ms. Dotson refers to Dr. Welt and the private hospital as "The Defendants."

         The certificate of good faith Ms. Dotson filed with her complaint in the Claims Commission contains the caption of the lawsuit she filed in the Washington County court. Ms. Dotson identified Dr. Welt and the private hospital in the certificate of good faith, but she made no mention of Dr. Brooks. In addition to filing a certificate of good faith, Ms. Dotson stated in the complaint as follows:

22. Plaintiff's counsel has also consulted with one (1) or more experts who have provided a signed, written statement confirming that upon information and belief they: (a) Are competent under Section 29-26-115 to express opinion(s) in this case; and (b) Believe, based upon the information available from the medical records concerning the care and treatment of the Plaintiff for the incident(s) at issue, that ...

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