State Supreme Court Rules Defendant Waived Defense By Not Timely Raising Issue

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled 4-1 on Friday that a defendant in a health care liability action must act in a timely manner to assert that the claim is prohibited because it was filed too late by the plaintiff.

Plaintiff Eddie C. Pratcher Jr. filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in December 2000, asserting that various healthcare providers in Memphis were negligent in the treatment of his pregnant wife, Sandra Y. Jones-Pratcher, who died in the hospital in January 2000. He sued Consultants In Anesthesia, Inc. (Consultants) for the negligence of one of its nurses.

Mr. Pratcher added a negligence claim against Consultants’ president, Dr. Dinesh Chauhan, in an amended complaint after the three-year statute of repose ran. A statute of repose is a legal deadline that runs from the time of the initial event that caused the harm.

Consultants answered the complaint, but did not assert the affirmative defense of the statute of repose. An affirmative defense essentially means the defendant agrees with the complaint, but denies liability based on other reasons, in this case, that a legal deadline had passed.

A jury in the 2006 trial ruled that the defendants, including Consultants, were not liable. However, Mr. Pratcher filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial judge granted in part because of a problem with the jury instructions.

Consultants filed a motion to dismiss in 2009, claiming that the statute of repose prevented Mr. Pratcher from suing Consultants based on any alleged fault of Dr. Chauhan. Consultants also filed a motion to amend its answer to assert the statute of repose as an affirmative defense. A trial judge denied both motions.

The Tennessee Supreme Court determined the statute of repose is an affirmative defense under the plain language of Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 8.03. The Court also determined that Consultants waived the affirmative defense by failing to raise it until years after the trial.

“Today we clarify that the statute of repose is an affirmative defense that is generally waived if not timely raised,” wrote Justice Sharon G. Lee for the majority. “A defendant must assert an affirmative defense in a timely manner to secure the ‘just’ and ‘speedy’ resolution of litigation.”

Justice William C. Koch, Jr., disagreed with the majority. In his dissent, he wrote that “it is a very close call in light of the facts of the case.” Justice Koch continued that the granting of a new trial placed “both the plaintiff and the defendant back at square one,” and would permit the plaintiff ample opportunity to respond to the defense.

To read the majority opinion in Pratcher v. Methodist Healthcare Memphis Hospitals authored by Justice Lee, and the dissent by Justice Koch, visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.


Tennessee Regulatory Authority Changes Name To Tennessee Public Utility Commission

Governor Haslam and the Tennessee General Assembly approved legislation this month that changes the name of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority (TRA) to the Tennessee Public Utility Commission (TPUC). The bill was sponsored by State Senator, Jack Johnson and State Representative, Pat Marsh during the 2017 Tennessee General Assembly’s legislative session and it became effective ... (click for more)

Tennessee Tax Revenue For March Released

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Larry Martin announced Monday that Tennessee tax revenue fell short of budgeted estimates in March. March sales tax revenues reflect retail activity occurring in February, and overall March revenues were $993.6 million, which is $100.9 million less than we collected in March of 2016 and $70.1 million less than the budgeted estimate ... (click for more)

Woman Gets Workhouse Time, Lengthy Supervised Probation In Hit-And-Run Death Of Man On Moped

A Trenton, Ga. woman was given a four-year sentence following a lengthy hearing in the December 2012 hit-and-run death of a man in St. Elmo. Betty Mundy will serve 11 months and 29 days of the sentence in the workhouse and then be under a lengthy supervised probation, Judge Barry Steelman said.  She was charged in the death of 56-year-old David Joe Bruce. She pleaded ... (click for more)

Angela Faye Shepherd, 50, Arrested In Stabbing On Glass Street

Angela Faye Shepherd (formerly Parker), 50, was arrested early Sunday morning after stabbing another female. Chattanooga Police responded to 2302 Glass Street at 12:15 a.m. to an assault. The victim, Dionne Parker, and Ms. Shepherd were both patrons of the Pay-Pay Lounge. Ms. Shepherd was formerly married to the current husband of Ms. Parker.   The victim advised that ... (click for more)

No Tax-Supported Entity Should Get Secrecy In Spending

A shadowy situation has emerged in Chattanooga with an organization that manages millions of taxpayer dollars with no transparency and such a surprising disregard for accountability that one wonders what it would take to wake up elected officials who are supposedly in charge. Welcome to the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, whose lawyer threatened to sue the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Genius Comes This Way

They claim that about 50 years ago there was this special night at the Tivoli Theater. The “Jewel of the South” had been sold out for weeks and about 45 minutes before Louis Armstrong, or whoever, was to appear, incomparable John Robere had pulled out all the stops on “The Mighty Wurlitzer” and the excitement was keen. This tuxedoed dandy – he was even wearing spats – escorted his ... (click for more)