HCLA dismissal based on statute of limitations partially reversed.

Where plaintiff’s HCLA complaint cited alleged negligent acts that occurred at different times over a period of a few months, the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint as time-barred was affirmed in part and reversed in part. Dismissal of the claims related to the care plaintiff received less than one year prior to the filing of his complaint was reversed.

In Vandergriff v. Erlanger Health Systems, No. E2022-00706-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 29, 2023), plaintiff was assaulted with a baseball bat on February 20, 2020, and he sought medical treatment from defendants on March 1. After his initial surgery on March 1, plaintiff returned several times with complications and for further treatment. On March 25, plaintiff had a second surgery; on April 6, plaintiff returned and complained about pus drainage; on May 4, he again complained about pus drainage; he was readmitted on May 8 for his third surgery; he was diagnosed with a bone infection after the third surgery; he had a seizure on June 29; and he noticed increased drainage on July 4.

Plaintiff sent pre-suit notice to four defendants on December 15, 2020, but the HIPAA release he sent with the notice did not specify which providers could release records or obtain records from each other. Plaintiff then filed his pro se complaint on April 14, 2021.

Defendants filed motions to dismiss, arguing that all of plaintiff’s claims accrued by April 6, 2020, and that because plaintiff provided an noncompliant HIPAA authorization, he had not complied with the pre-suit notice requirements and was not entitled to the 120-day extension of the statute of limitations provided by the HCLA. The trial court agreed and dismissed the complaint as a whole, but the Court of Appeals partially reversed dismissal.

The Court of Appeals agreed that plaintiff had not complied with the pre-suit notice requirements and was not entitled to a 120-day extension of the statute of limitations. The Court ruled, however, that some of plaintiff’s allegations related to medical treatment he received less than one year before his complaint was filed. Plaintiff filed the complaint on April 14, 2021, and while the trial court had ruled that plaintiff’s claim accrued on April 6, 2020, the Court of Appeals wrote that “several of the alleged actions and inactions that constituted the purported medical malpractice in the present case occurred after that date.” The Court specifically pointed out plaintiff’s hospital visit on May 4; his third surgery on May 8; his seizure and subsequent hospital visit on June 29; and his visit on July 4. Regarding these treatments, the Court found that “the statute of limitations does not serve as a bar to [plaintiff’s] lawsuit as to those incidents because [he] filed his lawsuit within a year of their occurrence.” Dismissal as to claims related to events occurring after April 14, 2020, was therefore reversed, while dismissal as to claims related to treatment occurring prior to that date was affirmed.

This opinion was filed nine months after oral arguments in this case.

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