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.


CBL & Associates Plans Mixed-Use Redevelopment At Cary Towne Center in Cary, N.C.

CBL & Associates Properties, Inc. on Monday announced future plans to transform Cary Towne Center in Cary, N.C., into a mixed-use destination. Last week’s announcement by IKEA of its proposal to build a store adjacent to Cary Towne Center provides a keystone attraction for the project and a catalyst for its redevelopment, said officials.  Over the last several months, ... (click for more)

GDOL To Help Roper Corporation Recruit In Fort Oglethorpe

The Georgia Department of Labor (GDOL) will help Roper Corporation recruit 100 assemblers to work in LaFayette. The recruitment will be held on  Friday, June 2 , from  1-3 p.m.  at the Fort Oglethorpe City Hall located at 500 City Hall Drive in LaFayette. GDOL staff will be on site to assist applicants. Due to U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration ... (click for more)

Erlanger Expects $5 Million Profit Despite "Very Challenging" Budget

Erlanger Health System officials said they expect a $5 million profit for the upcoming fiscal year despite a "very challenging" budget. Britt Tabor, chief financial officer, said there will be continued top line growth, which has brought a 51 percent rise in patient revenue over the past five years. "This is organic growth. It's not from mergers or acquisitions," Mr. Tabor ... (click for more)

Public Defender Says Another Entity Needs To Continue Funding For New Mental Health Court

Public Defender Steve Smith said another entity needs to take over funding the new Mental Health Court. He said Criminal Court Judge Don Poole has agreed to oversee the court and will make a budget presentation to the County Commission on May 31. Mr. Smith told members of the Pachyderm Club on Monday that he has been funding the program through the services of Anna Protano ... (click for more)

Tennessee Business Expansions On Rise Across State

In 2016, Tennessee was named State of the Year for Economic Development by Southern Business & Development Magazine based on project totals and the variety of industries that invested in the state and created jobs. To a great extent, Bradley and Polk Counties have benefited from that investment.   From February 2015 to February 2016, Cleveland/Bradley County led the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Public Defender And The Mental Health Court

I am holding in my hand a list of the names of 50 very real people who cost the taxpayers of Hamilton County a combined $3,037.090 in incarceration charges before July 2015. These people live in our county and I dare say it is not completely their fault that they were put in the county jail. Each has a professionally-diagnosed mental illness and today, most regretfully, the County ... (click for more)