Who Can Talk With Who in a Med Mal Case? The West Section Clarifies

CHERYL HALL, SURVIVING SPOUSE AND NEXT OF KIN OF MARK LAMAR HALL, JR., DECEASED v. JAMES H. CRENSHAW, M.D., THE JACKSON CLINIC PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION, KEITH ADKINS, M.D., S. PATRICK WHALEN, VANDERBILT HEART AND VASCULAR INSTITUTE, et al.
Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys:

Marty R. Phillips and Ashley D. Cleek, Jackson, Tennessee, for Defendant/Appellants James H. Crenshaw, M.D. and The Jackson Clinic Professional Association

Lee J. Chase, Memphis, Tennessee, for Plaintiff/Appellee Cheryl Hall, surviving spouse of Mark Emmett Lamar Hall, Jr.

Judge: KIRBY

This interlocutory appeal involves ex parte communications between defense counsel for a defendant medical entity and non-party physicians who treated the plaintiff’s decedent and are employed by the defendant medical entity. The plaintiff filed this healthcare liability action against the defendant medical entity arising out of treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. The trial court held that the attorneys for the defendant medical entity are barred under Alsip v. Johnson City Medical Center, 197 S.W.3d 722 (Tenn. 2006), from conferring ex parte with treating physicians employed by the defendant medical entity who are not named as defendants in the lawsuit. The defendant medical entity was granted permission for this interlocutory appeal. We hold that the defendant medical entity has an independent right to communicate privately with its employees, and this right is not abrogated by the filing of the plaintiff’s healthcare liability lawsuit. Therefore, Alsip does not bar the medical entity’s attorneys from communicating ex parte with physicians employed by the medical entity about the physician employee’s medical treatment of the plaintiff’s decedent. Accordingly, we reverse.

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