Tennessee Supreme Court Rules Health Care Liability Act Applies to Medical Battery and Intentional Misrepresentation Claims Against Health Care Providers

The Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled that the Tennessee Health Care Liability Act applies to a lawsuit based on theories of medical battery and intentional misrepresentation against health care providers for injuries arising from a surgical procedure.

The Health Care Liability Act, among other things, requires a person who sues a health care provider for injuries arising from a health care service to give the provider sixty-days’ notice before filing a lawsuit and to submit proof of compliance when the complaint is filed. The person filing the lawsuit must also file a certificate of good faith certifying that an expert witness has determined there is a good faith basis for the lawsuit if expert testimony is necessary to prove liability. Failure to comply with the notice and filing requirements of the Act may result in dismissal of the case.

The Plaintiffs, Donna Cooper and her husband, Michael Cooper, sued the Defendants, Dr. Mason Wesley Mandy, his employer, NuBody Concepts, LLC, and Middle Tennessee Surgical Services, PLLC in the Williamson County Circuit Court for medical battery and intentional misrepresentation. The Plaintiffs claimed Ms. Cooper agreed for Dr. Mandy to operate on her after the Defendants told her Dr. Mandy was a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience. But Dr. Mandy was not board-certified as a specialist in any field. The Plaintiffs alleged that the surgery was unnecessarily painful, was performed in a barbaric fashion in unsterile conditions, and left Ms. Cooper disfigured and with grotesque and painful bacterial infections. The Plaintiffs claimed Ms. Cooper would not have agreed to the surgery if she had known the truth about Dr. Mandy’s qualifications, and that the misrepresentations negated her consent to the surgery.

The Defendants moved to dismiss the lawsuit because the Plaintiffs failed to comply with the Health Care Liability Act’s procedural and filing requirements. The Plaintiffs admitted their noncompliance but argued the Act did not apply because the misrepresentations were made in a “sales meeting” before Ms. Cooper and Dr. Mandy established a doctor-patient relationship. The trial court agreed with the Plaintiffs, ruling that the Defendants’ misrepresentations were unrelated to the provision of health care services because they were made before Dr. Mandy provided any health care services. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Tennessee Supreme Court unanimously reversed the judgments of the trial court and the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court held that the Health Care Liability Act applied to the Plaintiffs’ claims. Under the language of the Act, it applies to all claims alleging that a health care provider caused an injury that related to the provision of health care services, regardless of the theory of liability. Here, the Plaintiffs alleged claims against the Defendant health care providers arising from an unsuccessful surgical procedure. The Defendants’ misrepresentations occurred during a pre-surgical meeting between Dr. Mandy and Ms. Cooper in which Dr. Mandy gave her information about the procedure, such as its risks and benefits, so she could give him informed consent to proceed. This meeting was a necessary part of the health care service provided by Dr. Mandy. Thus, under the Act’s broad definition of “health care liability action,” the Supreme Court held that the Plaintiffs’ claims fell within the scope of the Act and returned the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

To read the opinion of the Court in Donna Cooper et al. v. Dr. Mason Wesley Mandy et al., authored by Justice Sharon G. Lee, please visit the Opinions section of TNCourts.gov.