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Sixth Circuit Remands Tennessee Medical Malpractice Claims for Widow of Veteran

paperwork-1538658-1279x852The case of Tracy Lynn Eiswert is a long and complicated one that sheds light on the difficulties that plaintiffs may face in receiving justice under Tennessee’s current medical malpractice laws, and the role of the federal court in shaping the understanding of such laws.

Scott Walter Eiswert was a Tennessee resident and National Guard member who committed suicide in 2008.  Scott sought treatment for mental health issues he suffered as a veteran at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Mountain Home, Tennessee, but he was misdiagnosed by medical professionals there.  Shortly thereafter, he committed suicide.  Scott’s wife, Tracy, filed a medical malpractice claim against the Medical Center, and the Medical Center conceded that it failed to properly diagnose Scott. However, a District Court in Tennessee ultimately threw out Tracy’s claims, holding that its hands were tied by the procedural hurdles and paperwork requirements put in place by Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws. Specifically, Tracy failed to file a certificate of good faith with her complaint and instead offered two expert medical reports stating that her claims had merit. The District Court determined that, although unfair, Tennessee’s law required strict compliance with the good faith certificate requirement.

Tracy appealed to the Sixth Circuit, which questioned the true strictness of Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws and whether Tracy’s filings may have been acceptable.  Accordingly, it certified the following question to the Supreme Court of Tennessee for consideration:  “Does a complaint signed by Plaintiff’s counsel, which attaches an expert report . . . stating that the expert believes within a reasonably degree of medical certainty that the Defendant’s acts or omissions resulted in harm” substantially comply with Tennessee’s medical malpractice act?

In response, the Tennessee Supreme Court also noted that Tracy had failed to comply with the pre-suit notice requirements of Tennessee’s medical malpractice law, and for this reason it declined to answer the Sixth Circuit’s question. In an opinion released several weeks ago, the Sixth Circuit continued its dogged pursuit of justice for Tracy, holding that her claims should be remanded to the District Court in light of other recent advancements in the analysis of Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws.

Specifically, the Sixth Circuit set forth a legal guide and outline for Tracy in arguing her claims, noting that recent cases before the Tennessee Supreme Court and Sixth Circuit suggest that “substantial compliance” may be sufficient under Tennessee’s notice and good faith filing requirements. These cases were decided after Tracy’s initial complaint before the District Court was dismissed and thus were not considered by the court at that time, but they were deemed by the Sixth Circuit to potentially shed light on whether Tracy’s actions were sufficient to comply with the medical malpractice requirements and allow Tracy to pursue justice for her husband.

As we have previously discussed on this blog, Tennessee’s medical malpractice laws can be complicated and difficult to navigate.  Although recent court decisions suggest that courts are beginning to read some flexibility into these laws, a consultation with a Tennessee personal injury attorney is still important. Medical malpractice attorney Eric Beasley has extensive experience representing Tennessee plaintiffs in health care-related personal injury and medical malpractice claims, and he can help you ensure that you meet all of the procedural requirements of Tennessee’s laws. If you have recently been injured in a health care-related incident, contact the Law Office of Eric Beasley today at 615-859-2223.

Related Blog Posts:

Evaluating the Impact of Recent Tennessee Case Law on Health Care Personal Injury Claims, Tennessee Injury Lawyer Blog, December 11, 2015.

Alleging Personal Injury in the Health Care Context – Abiding By the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act, Tennessee Injury Lawyer Blog, October 29, 2015.

Why Hire Medical Malpractice Lawyers in Nashville, TN?, Tennessee Injury Lawyer Blog, February 24, 2015