Dismissal based on statute of limitations affirmed; court relied on judicial notice of court file

Where the trial court took judicial notice of items from the court case underlying a tort action for invasion of privacy, abuse of process, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, it did not convert the motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and dismissal of the claims based on the statute of limitations was affirmed.

In Doe v. Rosdeutscher, No. M2022-00834-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. April 27, 2023), plaintiff had filed an underlying HCLA suit. Plaintiff eventually took a voluntary nonsuit in that case, and following a motion by defendants in that case, the trial court assessed Rule 37 and Rule 11 sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel.

Plaintiff then filed this action against the defendants and the defendants’ attorneys from the previous HCLA case. In this case, plaintiff asserted claims for invasion of privacy, abuse of process, intentional or reckless infliction of emotional distress, and breach of contract based on the allegation that defendants “filed Plaintiff’s medical records in the healthcare liability action which included nude photographs of Plaintiff and details about her sexual and mental health history[.]” Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted. The trial court also assessed damages against plaintiff and Rule 11 sanctions against plaintiff’s attorney. On appeal, these rulings were affirmed.

Regarding the tort claims, the trial court dismissed the claims based on the statute of limitations. Plaintiff argued, however, that the trial court erred by considering dates other than those listed in the complaint as the dates the allegedly tortious filings were made. In her complaint, plaintiff stated that the medical records were filed in the underlying case within one year of the instant case being filed. The trial court took judicial notice, though, of the fact that the records were actually filed in the underlying case in December 2019, and the present case was not filed until December 2021. Plaintiff argued that “the trial court failed to adhere to the correct legal standard in adjudicating the motion to dismiss because the trial court did not analyze the sufficiency of the claims as asserted in the complaint.” In response, the Court of Appeals explained that “courts may consider items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, and items appearing in the record of the case…without converting the motion into one for summary judgment.” (internal citation omitted).

Here, the trial court “considered items appearing in the record of the healthcare liability case,” and the Court ruled that “the trial court acted within its discretion by taking judicial notice” of the date that the relevant records were actually filed in the case. (internal citation omitted). Further, the Court pointed out that “Plaintiff’s counsel conceded in open court that Defendants placed the photographs and medical records in the public record in 2019 by filing them in the healthcare liability case,” so judicial notice was not actually required to find that the tort claims were time-barred. Dismissal of the tort claims was accordingly affirmed.

After affirming dismissal of the breach of contract claim, affirming the Rule 11 sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel, and awarding attorney’s fees for a frivolous appeal, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed in whole.

This opinion was released almost three months after the case was assigned on briefs.

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