JOSHLIN RENEE WOODRUFF BY AND THROUGH DOROTHY COCKRELL, ET AL. v. ARMIE WALKER M.D., ET AL. - Articles

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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on May 26, 2017

Court: TN Court of Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Joe Bednarz, Sr. and Joe Bednarz, Jr., Hendersonville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Beverly Woodruff and Dorothy Cockrell.

Attorneys 2:

Marty R. Phillips and Craig P. Sanders, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, Armie Walker.

Darrel E. Baker, Jr., Deborah Whitt, and M. Jason Martin, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellees, Timothy Hutchinson, Michael Martindale, and Professional Anesthesia Associates, P.C.

Jennifer S. Harrison, James E. Looper, Jr., and Lauren Dunavin Callins, Memphis, Tennessee, for the appellee, Elliott Clifton Roberts, Jr.

Dixie W. Cooper and Kaycee L. Weeter, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Nathan John Hoeldtke and Mid-South Perinatal Associates, P.C.

Patrick W. Rogers, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellees, West Tennessee OB-GYN Services aka West Tennessee OB-GYN Clinic, Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, West Tennessee Healthcare, Inc., Anna McIntyre, Kara Carter, Lisa L. Johnson, Jessica Perry, and Dena Etheridge.

Judge(s): GOLDIN

The plaintiffs, a mother and her child, filed this health care liability action in September 2015. The complaint alleged that both plaintiffs suffered permanent injuries resulting from the defendant health care providers’ negligent care during the child’s birth in June 2012. The defendants moved to dismiss the mother’s claims based on expiration of the one-year statute of limitations in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-116(a)(1) and to dismiss the claims of both plaintiffs based on expiration of the three-year statute of repose in Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-116(a)(3). With regard to the statute of limitations, the plaintiffs argued that the mother’s claims were timely filed because the discovery rule delayed the accrual of her claims until March 2015 and because she had been “adjudicated incompetent” within the meaning of Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-106 such that the limitations period was tolled as to her claims. With regard to the statute of repose, the plaintiffs argued that their claims were timely filed because they were entitled to rely on Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c), which extends the three-year statute of repose by 120 days when sufficient pre-suit notice is given. Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that neither the discovery rule nor Tennessee Code Annotated section 28-1-106 applied to the mother’s claims and that her claims were therefore filed after expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. Additionally, the trial court concluded that the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient presuit notice because the medical authorizations included in their pre-suit notice did not permit the defendants to obtain their complete medical records. Specifically, the trial court found the authorizations insufficient because they did not permit the defendants to obtain relevant medical records from prenatal treatment that the mother received prior to the date of the delivery. The trial court therefore concluded that the plaintiffs were not entitled to rely on the 120-day extended filing period and their claims were filed after expiration of the three-year statute of repose. The trial court dismissed all of the plaintiffs’ claims, and the plaintiffs appealed. Having reviewed the record submitted on appeal, we hold that the trial court properly dismissed the mother’s claims based on expiration of the one-year statute of limitations. We further hold, however, that the trial court erred in dismissing the child’s claims based on expiration of the three-year statute of repose. Records from prenatal treatment that the mother received prior to the date of the delivery were the mother’s medical records, and the child could not have unilaterally authorized their release. As such, his failure to do so did not render the medical authorizations provided with his pre-suit notice insufficient. The defendants have not asserted any other deficiencies in the child’s pre-suit notice. Because the child provided sufficient pre-suit notice, he was entitled to rely on Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(c), which extended the filing period by 120 days. The child’s claims were therefore timely filed prior to expiration of the extended statute of repose in October 2015. The judgment of the trial court is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

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