The Tennessee Supreme Court has determined that, in health care liability lawsuits, the obligation to disclose the number of violations of the certificate of good faith requirement does not compel any disclosure if there are no previous violations.
The court issued its ruling in reference to the case of Timothy Davis (spouse of deceased Katherine Michelle Davis) v. Michael Ibach MD, in which the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice suit in May 2009 against Ibach for wrongful death of his wife.
As part of the requirement for filing such suit, pursuant to the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act, Davis filed a certificate of good faith stating one or more experts were consulted with to confirm there was a good faith basis for initiating the action against the medical provider for damages relating to treatment.
The law also has a provision that the party “shall disclose the number of prior violations” of the good faith certificate requirement, which in this case, the plaintiff failed to do, as there were no prior violations of the law to disclose.
The defendant doctors filed a motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the plaintiff failed to note how many times he had violated the certificate requirement. The plaintiff then moved to dismiss without prejudice, giving the plaintiff the opportunity to file the case again if he so chose, which the trial court granted. The defendants appealed the dismissal without prejudice, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order.
In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court determined that the law does not require disclosure of the number of prior violations of the certificate of good faith requirement if the disclosure would be that there were none. The Court noted that the law states that the requirement is to disclose the actual number of violations.
“If there have not been any prior violations, there is no ‘number of prior violations’ to disclose,” the ruling stated. Therefore, nothing in the law prevented the trial court from granting the plaintiff’s request for voluntary dismissal without prejudice.
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