Tennessee Supreme Court Disallows Negligence Lawsuit Against Hospital Due to Elapsed Statute of Limitations

1334532_ambulance.jpgThe decision in Cunningham v. Williamson County Hospital District exemplifies why people who have suffered a loss or injury due to the negligence of another must consult with a local Nashville attorney as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Here, because the plaintiffs filed a lawsuit 15 months after the statute of limitations began to run, rather than within the one-year time period, they were precluded from any recovery. If you or someone you know has been injured due to the negligence of another person or business, it is essential that you contact a local injury attorney as quickly as possible after the incident occurs.

In this case, plaintiffs’ son was admitted to Williamson Medical Center for treatment of abdominal discomfort. He died 11 days later after experiencing respiratory complications. That was on November 25, 2008. On November 14 and 16, 2009, plaintiffs provided the potential defendants — the Williamson Medical Center, three nurses, a licensed practice nurse and two certified nurses — with pre-suit notice of the medical malpractice lawsuit as required by the Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121. Later, on March 12, 2010, the plaintiffs filed a complaint in the circuit court alleging that defendants had been negligent in treating their son, which ultimately caused his death.

The Williamson Medical Center is a governmental entity and subject to the Governmental Tort Liability Act (the “GTLA”), therefore, the case is governed by the GTLA. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint arguing that it was filed beyond the one-year statute of limitations date. In response, plaintiffs contended that by filing the pre-suit notice, the Tennessee statute extended the GTLA one-year time period by 120 days. The trial court ruled in favor of plaintiffs and denied defendants’ motion to dismiss, but granted an interlocutory appeal. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of the motion. The Supreme Court of Tennessee agreed to hear the case.

In reviewing the “interplay” between the GTLA and the Tennessee Code, the Court looked at whether the Tennessee statute operates to extend the statute of limitations by an additional 120 days. In relying on the decision in Lynn v. City of Jackson, the Court found that statutory provisions inconsistent with the GTLA may not extend the applicable statute of limitations period. Plaintiffs filed their claim outside the 12-month time period required by the GTLA. The Court reversed the lower court’s decision and held that plaintiffs’ claim was untimely and must be dismissed.

People seeking compensation for personal injury cases may recover for physical injuries, but also for pain and suffering, financial damages including lost earnings, medical expenses, associated property damages, and emotional distress. It is absolutely necessary to file your case within the appropriate time period or else you forfeit the right to bring the suit.


At the Law Office of David S. Hagy, PLC, Mr. Hagy is directly involved in all aspects of every case and ensures that our clients have the specialized attention they deserve. For questions about a personal injury case involving negligence, including your right to compensation, please contact us online or by calling 615-515-7774.

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