Woman can't add new Tenn. defendant as she sues over death of her baby

By Amanda Thomas | Jun 20, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) – The Tennessee Supreme Court has remanded a health care liability case back to the trial court after ruling that a woman whose infant died days after birth can’t add Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District as a new defendant.

By Thomas R Machnitzki (thomasmachnitzki.com) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Legal Newsline) – The Tennessee Supreme Court has remanded a health care liability case back to the trial court after ruling that a woman whose infant died days after birth can’t add Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District as a new defendant.

In unanimous June 6 ruling, the state Supreme Court found that Tiffinne Wendalyn Gail Runions can’t amend her lawsuit to substitute the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, which hadn’t received pre-suit notice. 

The district owns and operates the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital in Jackson, where she gave birth in 2012. Under the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, Runions was required to give the district at least 60 days' notice before filing suit.

According to the order, Runions’ baby died five days after being born. Citing negligent medical care, Runion sued three providers within the deadline, but didn’t sue the district. The order notes that even though the district didn’t receive notice, its risk management director acknowledged a letter sent to another provider.

The court granted the request, and the Court of Appeals affirmed that decision. But the Supreme Court ruled that the trial court erred by allowing Runions to make a substitution based on the amendment’s futility. While the district acknowledged the claim, the court found that it didn’t excuse Runions from complying with the act.

“The proper inquiry is whether the plaintiff gave pre-suit notice to the health care provider to be named a defendant, not whether the health care provider knew about the claim based on pre-suit notice of the claim directed to another potential defendant,” said Justice Sharon G. Lee, who wrote for the court.

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