In a case decided in April 2013 by the Tennessee Court of Appeals, the family of a mentally-ill and suicidal patient who subsequently killed himself at a crisis center had justice snuffed out because of a technical defect thanks toaforementioned new laws making it harder to bring medical malpractice suits in Tennessee. Under new statutes found under T.C.A. 29-26-121, prior to filing a lawsuit one must give certain written notice to the defendant of a potential claim, and then provide proof of such notice with the lawsuit.
In Shockley v. Mental Health Cooperative, the deceased family’s attorney served the notice to “Mental Health Cooperative Foundation, Inc.” through its registered agent. It was later discovered that the actual entity who ran the crisis center was “Mental Health Cooperative, Inc.,” and that the “Foundation” corporation was a distinct entity which did fundraising for the main corporation. The two entities shared the same registered agent and business address, so the notice would have gone to the same place regardless of for which entity it was addressed.
Even though the correct corporate entity got actual notice of the potential suit in the appropriate manner, the Tennessee Court of Appeals determined that the case must be thrown out because the correct corporate entity was not actually named in the notice. This was based on prior Tennessee Supreme Court case Curtis Myers v. AMISUB (SFH) Inc. d/b/a St. Francis Hospital which held that the notice requirement is mandatory rather than discretionary, so strict compliance is required.
The Court of Appeals in the Shockley case concluded that the pre-suit notice is not a pleading which may be amended under Rule 15.03, which normally allows plaintiffs to remedy such technical defects. This is because pre-suit notice precedes the lawsuit and is not part of the case itself.
Thus, the Court concluded that the family of the mental health patient who committed suicide could not amend or fix the problem, therefore the entire suit was dismissed because the family (via its attorney) had technically given notice the wrong corporate entity even though the correct entity actually received notice at the shared physical address.
The key to finding justice in such medical malpractice cases is obtaining the services of an experienced, competent legal professional who has an eye for detail and knows the all the laws and procedure as it relates to the Government Tort Liability Act. Contact attorney Michael Pence today and schedule a free consultation.