LIVESTREAMING: Second Supreme Court Live-Stream Starts at 10 a.m. CDT

May 19, 2020

The live-stream of the second case on the Tennessee Supreme Court's docket today will begin at 11 a.m. EDT/10 a.m. CDT on the TN Courts YouTube page. The Tennessee Supreme Court remains committed to keeping Tennessee courts open while protecting the health and safety of all parties. Due to the continued concerns regarding COVID-19, the cases set for the May 19, 2020 docket will be heard by livestream video conferencing. This is one of the many efforts the Court has taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to prioritize the health and well-being of all litigants, attorneys, judges, and employees of the court system.

The first case on the docket was live-streamed at 9:30 EDT/8:30 CDT and is available as an archived video on the TN Courts YouTube page:  https://www.youtube.com/user/TNCourts. The final case will begin at 1:30 EDT/12:30 CDT.

The details of the cases are as follows:

Clarissa Bidwell ex rel James Bidwell et al. v. Timothy Strait MD et al. – In this healthcare liability action, James Bidwell is named as the plaintiff on behalf of his wife, Clarissa Bidwell, who is deceased.  Ms. Bidwell went to the hospital for cranial issues and, after diagnostic testing and diagnosis, she was released from care by Drs. Timothy Strait and Jeffrey Colburn.  On the way home, she experienced stroke-like symptoms and was flown to Erlanger Hospital (“EH”) to undergo emergency brain surgery.  She passed away shortly thereafter.  Following an investigation, the plaintiff provided pre-suit notice to Drs. Strait and Colburn and two facilities that he believed were the doctors’ employers, as required by Tennessee’s Healthcare Liability Act (“the Act”).  The plaintiff filed suit against the doctors and the facilities under the Act alleging negligence and vicarious liability related to the conduct of the physician defendants.  EH was not one of the employers listed in the original complaint, and the plaintiff did not send pre-suit notice to EH.  In their answers, the physician defendants denied being employees of the facilities listed in the complaint.  Additionally, Dr. Strait stated that his facility had been acquired by EH, and he reserved the right to plead comparative negligence as to the plaintiff or other responsible parties but claimed he did not know of any other parties that could be named as a defendant in the suit.  Dr. Colburn also reserved the right to raise the defense of comparative fault and stated that at all times relevant to the suit, he provided medical care at a division of EH.  The physician defendants filed motions for summary judgment, claiming that EH was their actual employer and, because EH was not listed as a defendant in the case, as required by statute, the doctors were immune from suit and the case should be dismissed.  The plaintiff filed a motion to amend its complaint to substitute EH as the physician defendants’ employer and to add claims against EH.  The trial court denied the motion to amend and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants.  The trial court reasoned that EH was a necessary party to the action, and because the plaintiff failed to provide pre-suit notice to EH within the statute of limitations period, the plaintiff could not add EH as a party.  The plaintiff appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of the motion to amend and vacated the grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.  The Court of Appeals reasoned that the physician defendants were required by statute to notify the plaintiff that EH was a “known or necessary party within thirty days of receiving pre-suit notice.”  Additionally, because the physician defendants failed to do so, and then subsequently declared that EH was a necessary party, the plaintiff was entitled to additional time to amend his complaint to add EH and the claims against it.  On appeal to this Court, the defendants argue that the statute requiring defendants to notify a plaintiff about a known or necessary party should not be interpreted broadly and only applies when there is an error regarding the named parties in the suit and the defendant knows of the error.  Additionally, the physician defendants contend that the plaintiff cannot rely on the statute because he was aware of EH before filing suit, and the Act’s 90-day savings statute did not apply in this case because neither defendant pled comparative fault against EH in his answer.