Rhonda Willeford, Et Al. v. Timothy P. Klepper, M. D., Et Al.

Rhonda Willeford, Et Al. v. Timothy P. Klepper, M. D., Et Al.
M2016-01491-SC-R11-CV

We granted review in this case to determine whether Tennessee Code Annotated section 29-26-121(f) violates the separation of powers clause in the Tennessee Constitution. The statutory provision allows defense counsel to conduct ex parte interviews with patients’ non-party treating healthcare providers in the course of discovery in a healthcare liability lawsuit. We hold that section 29-26-121(f) is unconstitutional as enacted, to the limited extent that it divests trial courts of their inherent discretion over discovery. We also conclude that the statute can be elided to make it permissive and not mandatory upon trial courts. As such, we hold that the elided statute is constitutional. We vacate the trial court’s qualified protective order entered in this case and remand the case to the trial court for reconsideration based on the guidance set forth in this opinion. 

Authoring Judge: 
Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins
Originating Judge: 
Judge Jonathan L. Young
Date Filed: 
Friday, February 28, 2020