The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that a plaintiff who lost a medical malpractice case in federal court was not estopped from pursing a case against a State-employed doctor even though the federal court jury assigned no fault to the doctor, a non-party in the federal court action.
We have determined that the proceeding in federal court did not provide Ms. Mullins with a full and fair opportunity to litigate her medical negligence claims against Dr. Mejia. It is undisputed that Ms. Mullins could not, as a matter of law, recover monetary damages from either Dr. Mejia or the State in the federal proceedings. Common sense also dictates that it would have been foolhardy for Ms. Mullins to press her claim that Dr. Mejia had been negligent in the federal proceeding because doing so would have diluted the strength of her claims against the remaining defendants and would have profited her little in later proceedings against Dr. Mejia. [Footnotes omitted.]
The case is Mullins v. State of Tennessee, No. E2007-011130SC-R11-CV (Tenn. Sept. 30, 2009). Read the full opinion here. The opinion will be discussed in more detail in the November edition of the Tennessee Trial Law Report.