Where a pipe could be altered but the expense to do so would be “considerable” and there were no indications that any alterations were intended, a nuisance claim based on the pipe was considered to be a permanent nuisance, meaning that the statute of limitations was three years “from the time of the creation of the nuisance.” In addition, where a trespass claim involved complicated questions regarding water runoff and flow patterns and plaintiffs did not have a competent expert witness to testify as to causation, summary judgment for the defendant was appropriate.

In Ray v. Neff, No. M2016-02217-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 20, 2018), plaintiffs filed a claim for nuisance and trespass related to their adjacent neighbors’ installation of a pipe on their property. Plaintiffs claimed that the pipe was first placed in 2008, and that after extensive flooding in 2010, “changes to the pipe…modified the course of a creek” and caused water to flow directly towards their home, causing property damage.

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Where plaintiffs had attempted to communicate with a second expert and eventually obtained an affidavit from him, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court should have granted plaintiffs’ motion to alter or amend.

In Harmon v. Hickman Community Healthcare Services, Inc., No. M2016-02374-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 29, 2018), plaintiffs filed an HCLA claim after decedent died shortly after being incarcerated at the Hickman County jail. Decedent was arrested at a traffic stop and found to be in possession of drugs. She “started experiencing symptoms of narcotic withdrawals” and requested medical treatment. She was treated at the jail by Nurse Cloud, was later found unresponsive in her cell, and died the next day. Nurse Cloud was an employee of defendant, and the jail had a contract with defendant for medical care.

Both plaintiffs and defendant filed motions for summary judgment in this case. The trial court ultimately granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on plaintiffs’ inability to prove causation. The trial court ruled that the expert relied upon by plaintiff was not competent to give causation testimony under Tennessee law, and that there was thus no genuine issue of material fact. One month after this ruling, plaintiffs submitted a Motion to Revise (which the trial court and Court of Appeals determined was actually a Rule 59 Motion to Alter or Amend), supported by declarations from a new expert witness. The trial court denied the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed this ruling.

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Failure to comply with HCLA pre-suit notice requirements will not be excused due to local practice, and a final order dismissing defendants from a suit that is not appealed cannot later be revised by the trial court through a decision in a second suit.

In Smith v. Wellmont Health System, No. E2017-00850-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 9, 2018), plaintiff filed an HCLA claim against several defendants, all of whom filed motions to dismiss based on an inadequate HIPAA authorization in the pre-suit notice. The trial court granted three defendants’ joint motion to dismiss and entered a dismissal order, from which plaintiff did not appeal. Before the motions from the other defendants were decided, plaintiff voluntarily nonsuited those claims.

Plaintiff subsequently sent a second pre-suit notice to all original defendants and filed a second suit naming all of them, including the three dismissed from the original suit. All defendants filed motions to dismiss in this case as well, and the trial court denied them all. It ruled that its first dismissal order was incorrect because “plaintiff’s first complaint was not time-barred because…plaintiff provided proper pre-suit notice.” This interlocutory appeal followed.

The issues in this case were identical to those in Roberts v. Wellmont Health System, No. 2017-00845-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 5, 2018), a decision that came out just four days before this one. In both cases, plaintiff provided a HIPAA authorization that left blanks for which parties could disclose protected health information, to whom disclosures could be made, and the expiration date. Here, the Court noted that plaintiff expressly stated in a letter accompanying the HIPAA form that defendants “could use the authorizations to get the records of the other Defendants and he invited them to contact him if they had any questions.” In this case, like in Roberts, the plaintiff and trial court relied on the fact that providing blank forms was the local practice to deem the forms sufficient.

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A HIPAA authorization form that leaves blanks for which parties may make disclosures and to whom disclosures can be made is most likely insufficient to meet the statutory requirements of the HCLA, even if it complies with the local practice.

In Roberts v. Wellmont Health System, No. 2017-00845-COA-R9-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 5, 2018), plaintiff sent defendants a pre-suit notice and then filed an HCLA complaint. When defendants filed motions to dismiss in the first matter, plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the case, then subsequently sent new pre-suit notices and filed a second complaint. Defendants filed motions to dismiss, arguing that the first pre-suit notice was deficient due to an incomplete HIPAA authorization, that plaintiff was thus not entitled to the 120-day extension of the statute of limitations which would mean that the first suit was filed outside the statute of limitations, and that the second suit was therefore time-barred.

When sending the first pre-suit notice, plaintiff included a HIPAA authorization that left blank the spaces for (1) the persons authorized to disclose protected health information and (2) the persons to whom disclosure could be made. The form also failed to state an expiration date.

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Where there were facts in dispute about whether a warehouse warned its workers about independent contractors working and using extension cords in the facility, summary judgment in a premises liability case was inappropriate.

In Miranda v. CSC Sugar, LLC, No. W2017-01986-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. July 5, 2018), plaintiff was a construction worker who was working at defendant’s warehouse as a contractor. Plaintiff and his brother were working on scaffolding and using an electric screw gun, which he plugged in with a one-hundred-foot extension cord to an outlet in a different part of the facility. The cord ran across a doorway at the warehouse, and on the third day that plaintiff was working, one of defendant’s employees drove a forklift in reverse across the cord, which entangled the cord and pulled on the scaffolding, causing plaintiff to fall and injure himself.

Plaintiff filed this premises liability suit against defendant, and the trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The trial court ruled that defendant “had no duty to warn [plaintiff] of the allegedly dangerous condition which [plaintiff] or his co-employee created and knew about.” The Court of Appeals reversed this ruling.

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Where a school custodian had placed wet floor signs on a small area of one side of a hallway but mopped the entire hallway, the trial court’s finding that the school was liable to a teacher who slipped and fell outside her classroom was affirmed on appeal.

In Robertson v. Clarksville-Montgomery County School System, No. M2017-02492-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 28, 2018), plaintiff was a teacher at defendant school. Plaintiff filed suit after she injured herself when she left her classroom to attend a staff meeting and almost immediately slipped on the wet floor in the hall. According to plaintiff, there were two wet floor signs on the opposite side of the hallway in close proximity to one another, but she did not see them before falling. Plaintiff further asserted that even if she had seen them, she would have believed that they indicated that the area between the signs was wet, not the entire hallway.

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Where a claim for negligence against a bank fell within the parameters of the UCC, the common law negligence claim was preempted and summary judgment for defendants was affirmed.

In Mark IV Enterprises, Inc. v. Bank of America, N.A., No. M2017-00965-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 26, 2018), plaintiff sued defendant bank for aiding and abetting fraud and conversion, as well as for common law negligence. Plaintiff’s bookkeeper had embezzled money from plaintiff by taking checks written to plaintiff’s vendors and depositing them into her own personal account at defendant bank. Plaintiff alleged that defendant was negligent because the checks were not payable to the bookkeeper, many were not endorsed, and defendant bank had failed to safeguard against such issues when checks were deposited through its ATMs.

The trial court dismissed the conversion and fraud claims on a motion to dismiss, and granted summary judgment to the bank on the negligence claim based on its finding that the bank did not owe plaintiff a duty. The Court of Appeals affirmed, but on different grounds.

Where a plaintiff sent notice to and filed suit against an incorrect HCLA defendant, then moved to amend to name the correct defendant, the motion to amend may be futile if the complaint was originally filed outside the one-year statute of limitations, as the 120-day extension would not apply to the new defendant to whom notice was not given.

In Runions v. Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District, No. W2016-00901-SC-R11-CV (Tenn. June 6, 2018), the plaintiff and her infant daughter had been treated at the defendant hospital, and the infant daughter died, allegedly due to defendant’s negligence. Plaintiff sent pre-suit notice to several entities, all of whom had Ms. Higgs listed as their registered agent. Ms. Higgs was also the registered agent for the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital District (the District), who was not sent notice but ultimately was identified as the proper defendant.

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When an additur changed a jury verdict from $300,000 to over $1.3 million, the Court of Appeals ruled that it destroyed the jury’s verdict.

In Walton v. Tullahoma HMA, LLC, No. M2017-01366-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 7, 2018), plaintiff brought a health care liability and wrongful death claim after her husband died while in defendant’s hospital being treated for kidney stones. According to plaintiff, her husband was put on a pain pump to self-administer morphine, and she was told to press the button while he slept, which she did. The husband coded the following morning, suffered brain damage, and was eventually taken off life support.

Plaintiff filed this HCLA/ wrongful death suit, seeking medical expenses, the pecuniary value of husband’s life, and damages for a loss of consortium claim. Defendant hospital answered and asserted that plaintiff was comparatively at fault for administering the pain medication to her husband. After a trial, a jury found defendant 51% at fault and plaintiff 49% at fault, and determined that the total damages were $300,000, which included “$300,000 for loss of earning capacity and $0 for loss of consortium.”

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Where an HCLA plaintiff sent defendants a HIPAA authorization that “failed to include the mother’s authority to sign the document, the expiration date of the document, and the names of all healthcare providers authorized to use or disclose the requested information,” plaintiff was still deemed to have substantially complied with the statutory requirements, and dismissal of the complaint was reversed.

In Martin v. Rolling Hills Hospital, LLC, No. M2016-02241-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. June 22, 2018), plaintiffs were the parents and children of a patient who was admitted to defendant hospital for suicidal ideation and detoxification, and was found unresponsive two days after her admission, dying later that day.

The death occurred on June 28, 2013, and the first complaint was filed on October 17, 2014, which was outside the one-year limitations period but within the 120-day extension period. That complaint was nonsuited, and a second complaint was filed naming the same defendants within a year of the nonsuit. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs did not comply with the pre-suit notice requirements, which meant they were not entitled to the 120-day extension of the statute of limitations. Accordingly, defendants argued that the first suit was time-barred, making the second suit also time-barred. The trial court granted to motion to dismiss based on plaintiffs’ incomplete HIPAA authorization, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

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