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.


Chattanooga Area Labor Council To Host Workers Memorial Day Event

The Chattanooga Area Labor Council will host a Workers Memorial Day Event on Monday, April 28, to remember all workers who have suffered and died on the job and to renew efforts for safe workplaces.    This is a worldwide campaign, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, to generate awareness and support of workers’ rights to "safe, healthy and respectful work environments."   ... (click for more)

Hicks Speaker For Walker Chamber's Monthly Membership Luncheon

The University of Georgia’s Small Business Development Center will be highlighted by keynote speaker Kinsey Hicks, program coordinator, during the Walker County Chamber of Commerce’s April Membership Luncheon which will take place on Tuesday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Walker County Civic Center, 10052 N Hwy 27, Rock Spring, GA.    The Mission of the ... (click for more)

Man Shot On Cannon Avenue Early Saturday Morning

A man was shot early Saturday morning on Cannon Avenue. At approximately 5:30 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Cannon Ave. for shots fired.  Shortly after receiving the call, officers learned that a victim arrived at a local hospital.  The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the right leg and is undergoing treatment. The injury is not considered to be life-threatening.  ... (click for more)

Child Playing With Cigarette Lighter Starts $25,000 Mobile Home Fire

A child playing with a cigarette lighter started a mobile home fire on Saturday morning. At 9 a.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire at 6561 Cassie Lane. It took four fire companies about 10 minutes to get the fire under control. The fire was contained to one bedroom. No injuries were reported. Damage to the home is around $25,000. (click for more)

When The City Was Silent - And Response

I don't know how to say this without getting my head handed back to me on a platter as is often the usual case. But at least I no longer receive the hateful (even threatening) emails and insults I became accustomed to. So I'll just bite and say it: I honestly don't see anything expressed by the NSM that hasn't been said locally on some level at one time or another, and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: God Could Use You…

In the spring of 1968, this just before pro golfer Billy Casper would win six tournaments that year and be the leading money winner on the tour, the wildly-popular “Buffalo Bill” was in Japan playing some off-season tournaments. He was asked if he would like to visit some American soldiers who had been seriously wounded and Casper, ever the gentleman, said of course. As he melted ... (click for more)