Subject Matter: TN Court of Appeal Decision Post-French
Good evening and I hope you enjoyed a lovely Easter weekend. Attached is a recent opinion from the TCA regarding Defendants’ Tenn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(6) Motion to Dismiss claims of ordinary negligence and joint venture and Peter’s report on the case.
While the trial court overturned the trial court’s granting of the Defendants’ MTD on most grounds, it upheld the dismissal as to Plaintiffs’ claims of vicarious liability and joint venture. The trial court found that the Plaintiffs had failed to state a claim for these counts under the Rules because Plaintiffs failed to allege enough factual matter to allow the claims to proceed. Briefly, the facts are as follows:
Plaintiffs were in an automobile accident with a co-defendant (not a party to the appeal) and also sued the medical clinic where the nonparty motorist had been treated with a drug called methadone as part of his medical treatment for an opiate addiction. Some side effects of methadone are drowsiness and blurred vision. Echoing similar motions filed by LTC Defendants in the recent past, the Defendants medical clinic and physician filed Rule 12 MTDs claiming that Plaintiffs’ claims which alleged ordinary negligence actually sounded in medical malpractice and should be dismissed for Plaintiffs’ failure to comply with the mandatory pre-suit notice and Certificate of Good faith requirement of the TMMA. Citing the recent Estate of French v. Stratford House opinion, the COA disagreed with the trial court and found that Plaintiffs’ claims sounded in ordinary negligence because the medical treatment of the nonparty motorist was not specifically at issue. Rather, the issues involved "failure to warn," and "failure to implement proper procedures for the protection of third parties." Referencing the TN Supreme Court’s Gunter v. Lab Corp of America case, the COA thus ruled that the Plaintiffs’ claims did not "relate to the rendition of medical services to [the non-party defendant.]"
Of import to LTC providers, the COA did uphold, however, the trial court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims of vicarious liability and joint venture for Plaintiffs’ failure to plead sufficient facts. Specifically, the COA found that the Plaintiffs failed to allege that Defendants "intended to carry out any business adventure for joint profit." Second, the complaint failed to allege that the defendants shared any "common purpose." The Court noted that "simply using the words ‘joint venture’ or alleging a joint venture relationship without alleging facts sufficient to establish such a relationship is not sufficient to state a claim. These are merely legal conclusions which we are not required to accept as true."
Although the recent French opinion limited the extent to which Defendants may seek dismissal of many of the non-TMMA claims contained in Plaintiffs’ complaints (see our previous report and our firm’s TBA feature article on French (can be accessed here: http://www.tba.org/journal_new/index.php/component/content/article/598?ed=41), this opinion underscores that MTDs are still available as to certain claims such as joint venture if Plaintiff does not plead them properly. Let us know if you have any questions and we will continue to keep you advised of changes and updates in the statutes and case law.
ADELMAN LAW FIRM, PLLC
545 S. Main St., Suite 111
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
Firm/Company: The Adelman Firm
Document Date: April 2011
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