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What Are the Notification Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim in Tennessee?

On Behalf of | Sep 12, 2021 | Medical Malpractice

If you sustain an injury under the care of a doctor or other medical professional, you may have a medical malpractice claim. Unlike other types of personal injury cases, a medical malpractice claim has specific requirements for notifying the defendants. At Batson Nolan PLC, our skilled medical negligence lawyers know the ins and outs of Tennessee’s reporting requirements and can help you pursue your claim.

Tennessee’s Notification Requirements for a Medical Malpractice Claim

In Tennessee, there is a pre-notice requirement for any medical malpractice claim filed within the state. Without sending this pre-notice to each defendant, a claimant may have their case dismissed, even with strong evidence of medical malpractice.

Under Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121, the claimant must give a notice to each health care provider being named as a defendant. The notice must include the following:

  • The patient’s name and date of birth;
  • The name and address of the claimant;
  • The relationship between the claimant and the patient;
  • The names and addresses of the providers receiving the notice;
  • The name and address of the attorney sending the notice; and
  • A HIPAA-compliant medical authorization to obtain medical records from the other providers named as defendants.

While this may seem like a minor part of the claim, failing to provide adequate notice to each defendant may result in the case being dismissed. Without a pre-notice and a HIPAA compliant medical authorization, the defendants will not be able to obtain medical records from each other and compile a defense. This is why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who knows every detail required under Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws.

In addition to these requirements, the notice must be delivered at least 60 days prior to the filing the lawsuit. This means that the plaintiff should deliver the pre-notice as soon as possible to avoid exceeding the statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. According to Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-116, the lawsuit must be filed within one year of the injury occurring or being discovered.

What If There Is Only One Defendant in My Claim?

Based on the requirements listed above, you may be wondering, What are the notification requirements for a medical malpractice claim in Tennessee with only one defendant? In that case, the requirement to provide a HIPAA-compliant authorization does not apply. Let’s take a look at the 2011 case Bray v. Khuri.

In May 2011, Deborah Bray sent a pre-notice to her late husband’s psychiatrist Dr. Radwan R. Khuri to notify him of a potential wrongful death lawsuit. Bray’s husband committed suicide while under the psychiatric care of Dr. Khuri. Since Dr. Khuri was the only named defendant in the case, Mrs. Bray included a non-HIPAA compliant medical authorization with the notice.

A few months later, Mrs. Bray filed a lawsuit against Dr. Khuri for medical malpractice. However, Dr. Khuri moved to dismiss the case since the medical authorization included in his notice wasn’t HIPAA compliant. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals dismissed the case.

Despite this setback, Mrs. Bray decided to request a review from the Tennessee Supreme Court. The court unanimously found Mrs. Bray’s pre-notice in compliance with Tennessee law and reversed the Court of Appeal’s decision. According to Justice Sharon G. Lee, the plaintiff “need not provide a HIPAA-compliant authorization when a single healthcare provider is given pre-suit notice of a healthcare liability claim.”

Since the defendant being named already has access to the medical records regarding the claim, they suffer no prejudice if they don’t receive a HIPAA compliant medical authorization. Based on this ruling, a HIPAA compliant medical authorization isn’t required when giving pre-notice if there’s only one defendant.

Do Medical Authorizations for Defendants Carry Over Separate Claims?

In some cases, a plaintiff may voluntarily dismiss their own claim and try to refile it at a later date. This may happen due to a lack of evidence or legal representation. Whatever the case may be, a new medical authorization must be provided to each defendant if the plaintiff brings another claim against them. Consider the following case, Cright v. Overly, M.D., decided by the Tennessee Court of Appeals in 2016.

In July 2008, Catherine Cright’s husband died from health complications after receiving a routine stent procedure. In the initial procedure, Dr. Tijuan Overly punctured the femoral artery of the deceased, causing significant organ damage. Once the hospital figured out their mistake, they rushed Cright’s husband into surgery for a possible retroperitoneal bleed. Although they repaired the femoral artery, Cright’s husband passed away shortly after the procedure.

In August 2009, Cright sent a pre-notice to each of the defendants and included a HIPAA compliant medical authorization. She then filed a lawsuit against Dr. Overly and the hospital in November 2009. Once the case reached trial in April 2013, Cright asked for a voluntary dismissal, which the court granted. One month later, Cright sent another pre-notice to each of the defendants without including a medical authorization. The defendants moved to dismiss the case since Cright did not provide a HIPAA-compliant medical authorization. The trial court dismissed the case.

When the Tennessee Court of Appeals reviewed the case, they determined that the medical authorizations provided by Cright in the first suit weren’t sufficient for the new lawsuit. As a result, the Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the case.

Contact a Medical Negligence Attorney Today

If you believe you have a claim against your doctor, you should seek the help of a skilled Tennessee medical negligence lawyer as soon as possible. Even if it’s clear that malpractice took place, failing to precisely follow Tennessee’s healthcare liability laws can jeopardize your case. At Batson Nolan PLC, we are dedicated to helping you hold the medical professional responsible for your care accountable.

To schedule a consultation, contact us online or give us a call. One of our attorneys will discuss the details of your case and determine the best course of action. We are happy to serve clients from our offices in Clarksville and Springfield, TN.