In May of 2013 the Tennessee Supreme Court decided an important case that interprets how the Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA) works in conjunction with other Tennessee statutes. In Walton Cunningham v. Williamson County Hospital District the Court found that the 120 day extension of time to file a healthcare liability action when pre-suit notice is provided does not apply to GTLA lawsuits.
The facts of the case established at the trial court are a husband and wife filed a claim against a county hospital alleging that the negligence of the hospital and its employees caused the death of their son. The claim was filed approximately fifteen months after their son’s death in accordance with the provisions of the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act. The county hospital filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the claim was filed outside the one-year statute of limitations of the GTLA. The couple responded that their complaint was filed timely because T.C.A. 29–26–121(c) extended the GTLA statute of limitations by 120 days.
The question before the Tennessee Supreme Court was whether the extension found in T.C.A. 29-26-121 applies to a GTLA healthcare liability claim, essentially a medical malpractice case against a governmental entity. The statute of limitations for a GTLA claim is one year as explicitly provided in T.C.A. 29-20-305(b). As a result, because the GTLA statute is very specific on the 12 month requirement, the Court held that the 120 day extension provision does not apply to GTLA claims and therefore the lawsuit must be brought within the 12 month time period.
What was made abundantly clear by the Court’s decision in this case is with the broadening of the definition of healthcare liability action, all Government Tort Liability Act cases are subject to the same time constraints and deadlines as cases that do not involve a governmental defendant. Therefore, it is imperative to fully and perfectly follow the Tennessee Medical Malpractice act, and all other relevant statutes, in order to avoid dismissal of your case.
As such, retaining the services of an experienced, competent medical malpractice legal professional is the key to getting the justice you deserve if you or someone you love has been harmed by a medical practitioner. Contact attorney Michael Pence today to schedule a consultation.