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.


La-Z-Boy Receives Commissioner's Award Of Excellence For Safety, Health

Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Burns Phillips announced that La-Z-Boy, Inc. located in Dayton was chosen to receive the Commissioner’s Award of Excellence for Workplace Safety and Health.  "La-Z-Boy, Inc. has demonstrated strong commitment to maintaining a safe and healthy workplace," said Commissioner Phillips, who presented the award ... (click for more)

Community Support Needed For Local Food Banks

Local food banks are preparing for the upcoming school year and the fight against childhood hunger. BI-LO has launched the Summer Backpack Hunger Relief Program in all stores to help children who don’t know from where their next meal will come from.  Customers are encouraged to donate at any store register through August 19 to help provide meals for healthy minds and bodies ... (click for more)

DA Looking Into Issue Of County Commission Candidate's Campaign Sending Filled-Out Requests For Absentee Ballot To Elderly Voters

The District Attorney's Office has been provided with documents that a County Commission candidate's campaign sent filled-out requests for absentee ballots to elderly voters. Kerry Steelman, election administrator, said there have been four instances in which such requests came from the Elect John Brooks campaign. He said state law says in Section 2-6-202:  (3) A person ... (click for more)

Graham Says County School-City Lawsuit Settlement "Stinks," But County Commission Approves It

The County Commission on Wednesday approved a settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Hamilton County Schools against the city of Chattanooga, though several commissioners said they were not happy with the deal and Commissioner Joe Graham said it "stinks." Commissioner Graham was the lone no vote. He was joined by Commissioner Tim Boyd in a failed effort to defer it a week. ... (click for more)

The Truth From Weston’s Sister - And Response (3)

I try not to read the negative articles and opinions about my older brother. Growing up around politics, I learned a long time ago that thick skin is not only necessary, it’s paramount. But this time, the lies and the rumors and the inaccurate information has gone too far. It’s too ridiculous for me to ignore. So let’s clear a few things up: Weston and I do not “come ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Oscar Brock’s True Passion

I don’t pay much attention to the Hamilton County School Board. Once the moon and the stars aligned behind Superintendent Rick Smith, you hear very little, if anything, from the nine-member council that oversees an annual budget of almost $400 million and employs 4,480 people. So chew this for a minute: approximately 2,000 of those people are not teachers. Yes, there are 78 principals ... (click for more)