Where plaintiff sent a HIPAA authorization with her HCLA pre-suit notice that failed to include one of the six core elements required on a HIPAA-compliant authorization, dismissal was affirmed, and plaintiff was not entitled to conduct discovery to attempt to show that defendant was not prejudiced by the incomplete HIPAA authorization.
In Reese v. The Waters of Clinton, LLC, No. E2020-01466-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Aug. 4, 2021), plaintiff, who was the patient’s power of attorney, filed an HCLA case based on treatment the patient received at a skilled nursing facility. Plaintiff sent pre-suit notice to multiple providers, and the complaint alleged that plaintiff had complied with the requirements of Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-121(a). The HPAA medical authorizations sent to the providers, however, “left blank the identity of the person or entity to whom the provider may make the disclosure,” which is one of the six core elements required by federal regulations for a HIPAA-compliant authorization. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted and the Court of Appeals affirmed.
Plaintiff’s argument on appeal was essentially that she should have been allowed to conduct discovery before the motion was decided for two reasons. First, she argued that “our Supreme Court’s opinion in Martin entitles Plaintiff to conduct discovery because the burden of proof lies with her to prove substantial compliance with pre-suit notice.” (See Martin v. Rolling Hills Hosp., LLC, 600 S.W.3d 322 (Tenn. 2020)). While Martin did outline a burden shifting framework for both establishing and challenging compliance with HCLA pre-suit notice requirements, the Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that this equated to a right for plaintiff to conduct discovery before a dismissal is granted. The Court pointed out that the motion in Martin was a motion for summary judgment, which is why the Court therein cited Rule 56, but that the Martin opinion held that “a Rule 12.02(6) motion is the correct vehicle to challenge compliance with the requirement of pre-suit notice in a healthcare liability action.” (internal citation omitted).