Cooper v. Mandy, M2019-01748-SC-R11-CV

CourtSupreme Court of Tennessee
Writing for the CourtSHARON G. LEE, JUSTICE
PartiesDONNA COOPER ET AL. v. DR. MASON WESLEY MANDY ET AL.
Docket NumberM2019-01748-SC-R11-CV
Decision Date20 January 2022

DONNA COOPER ET AL.
v.
DR. MASON WESLEY MANDY ET AL.

No. M2019-01748-SC-R11-CV

Supreme Court of Tennessee

January 20, 2022


Session October 6, 2021

Appeal by Permission from the Court of Appeals Circuit Court for Williamson County No. 2018-191 James G. Martin III, Judge

The issue presented in this interlocutory appeal is whether the Health Care Liability Act, Tennessee Code Annotated sections 29-26-101 to -122, applies to medical battery and intentional misrepresentation claims against health care providers for injuries arising from a surgical procedure. The defendant doctor told the plaintiff he was an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon, and the plaintiff consented to surgery. But the doctor was not a board-certified plastic surgeon, and the surgery did not go well. The plaintiff and her husband sued the doctor and his medical practice for her injuries, alleging medical battery and intentional misrepresentation. The defendants moved to dismiss because the plaintiffs had not complied with the pre-suit notice and filing requirements of the Health Care Liability Act. The plaintiffs, conceding their noncompliance, argued the Act did not apply to their medical battery and intentional misrepresentation claims. The trial court agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the defendants' misrepresentations were made before any health care services were rendered and thus did not relate to the provision of health care services. On interlocutory review, the Court of Appeals affirmed. We reverse and hold that the Health Care Liability Act applies to the plaintiffs' claims. The Act broadly defines a "health care liability action" to include 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. Based on the allegations in the complaint, the plaintiffs' medical battery and intentional misrepresentation claims fall within the definition of a "health care liability action" under the Act. We remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Tenn. R. App. P. 11 Appeal by Permission; Judgment of the Court of Appeals Reversed; Judgment of the Trial Court Reversed; Remanded to the Trial Court

J. Eric Miles and Brigham A. Dixson, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellants, Mason Wesley Mandy, M.D. and Middle Tennessee Surgical Services, PLLC.

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R. Dale Bay and Paul Jordan Scott, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellant, NuBody Concepts, LLC.

G. Kline Preston, IV, Nashville, Tennessee, for the appellees, Donna Cooper and Michael Cooper.

Brie Allaman Stewart, Chattanooga, Tennessee, for the Amicus Curiae, Tennessee Defense Lawyers Association.

Sharon G. Lee, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roger A. Page, C.J., and Jeffrey S. Bivins and Holly Kirby, JJ., joined.

OPINION

SHARON G. LEE, JUSTICE

I.

In September 2014, Plaintiff Donna Cooper met with Dr. Mason Wesley Mandy at NuBody Concepts, LLC in Brentwood, Tennessee, to discuss breast reduction surgery.[1]Dr. Mandy told Ms. Cooper he was a board-certified plastic surgeon with years of experience in performing the procedure. NuBody Concepts employee Rachelle Norris confirmed Dr. Mandy's designation as a board-certified plastic surgeon. Based on the representations by Dr. Mandy and Ms. Norris, Ms. Cooper agreed for Dr. Mandy to perform the breast reduction surgery and paid NuBody Concepts for the surgery. Dr. Mandy, however, was not board-certified as a specialist in any field.

Dr. Mandy operated on Ms. Cooper in October 2014. According to Ms. Cooper, the surgery was "unnecessarily painful," was performed in a "barbaric fashion in unsterile conditions," and "left her disfigured and with grotesque and painful bacterial infections."

In April 2018, the Coopers ("the Plaintiffs") filed suit in Williamson County Circuit Court against Defendants Dr. Mandy, NuBody Concepts, and Middle Tennessee Surgical Services, PLLC ("the Defendants").[2] The Plaintiffs sought to recover compensatory damages for Ms. Cooper's pain and suffering, permanent physical disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and lost income, as well as for Mr. Cooper's loss of consortium. The Plaintiffs alleged that the Defendants intentionally misrepresented Dr. Mandy's qualifications and that Ms. Cooper would not have consented to the surgery if she had known Dr. Mandy was not a board-certified plastic surgeon; that the Defendants committed

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a medical battery because their false representations negated Ms. Cooper's consent to the surgery; and that the Defendants engaged in a civil conspiracy.

The Defendants moved to dismiss under Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 12.02(6) based on the Plaintiffs' failure to comply with the pre-suit and filing requirements of the Act.[3] The Plaintiffs, admitting their noncompliance with the Act, argued their claims were not for negligent care but for medical battery and intentional misrepresentation which were not covered by the Act. The Plaintiffs also asserted that even if the Act applied, strict compliance was not required because expert testimony was not needed to prove their claims.[4]

The trial court denied the motions, holding that the Health Care Liability Act did not apply because the Plaintiffs' claims for medical battery and intentional misrepresentation were based on false statements the Defendants made to Ms. Cooper before they established a doctor-patient relationship.[5] Thus, the Plaintiffs' action was not related to the provision of health care services, and compliance with the Act's procedural requirements was not required. On interlocutory review, the Court of Appeals also applied a temporal analysis, concluding the Health Care Liability Act did not apply because the Defendants' misrepresentations were made as part of their business operations before any health care services were provided. Cooper v. Mandy, No. M2019-01748-COA-R9-CV, 2020 WL 6748795, at *1 (Tenn. Ct. App. Nov. 17, 2020), perm. app. granted (Tenn. Apr. 7, 2021).

We granted the Defendants' application for permission to appeal. On interlocutory appeal, we limit our review to the issue certified by the trial court. Dialysis Clinic, Inc. v. Medley, 567 S.W.3d 314, 317 (Tenn. 2019) (citing Wallis v. Brainerd Baptist Church, 509 S.W.3d 886, 896 (Tenn. 2016)). Here, that issue is whether a claim for injuries arising from a surgical procedure to which the plaintiff consented is governed by the Health Care Liability Act when the claim is based on pre-surgical misrepresentations about the surgeon's credentials by the defendant health care providers. When a claim is governed by

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the Act, failure to comply with the Act's requirements of pre-suit notice and a certificate of good faith may result in the dismissal of the action. See Ellithorpe v. Weismark, 479 S.W.3d 818, 828 (Tenn. 2015) (explaining that noncompliance with pre-suit notice requirements results in dismissal without prejudice and that failure to file a certificate of good faith when expert testimony is necessary results in dismissal with prejudice); Foster v. Chiles, 467 S.W.3d 911, 916 (Tenn. 2015) (citing Stevens ex rel. Stevens v. Hickman Cmty. Health Care Servs., Inc., 418 S.W.3d 547, 553 (Tenn. 2013)) (same).

A motion to dismiss under Rule 12.02(6) is the appropriate way to challenge compliance with the Act's procedural requirements. Ellithorpe, 479 S.W.3d at 823 (citing Myers v. AMISUB (SFH), Inc., 382 S.W.3d 300, 307 (Tenn. 2012)).[6] A Rule 12.02(6) motion challenges only the legal sufficiency of the complaint. In ruling on the motion, courts "must construe the complaint liberally," presume all alleged facts are true, and "giv[e] the plaintiff the benefit of all reasonable inferences." Id. at 824 (quoting Phillips v. Montgomery Cnty., 442 S.W.3d 233, 237 (Tenn. 2014)). Our review of the trial court's decision involves a question of law and is de novo. We do not presume the correctness of the trial court's decision. Effler v. Purdue Pharma, L.P., 614 S.W.3d 681, 688 (Tenn. 2020) (citing State v. Strode, 232 S.W.3d 1, 9 (Tenn. 2007)).

In interpreting the Health Care Liability Act, it is our role to give effect to the Legislature's intent without limiting or extending the meaning of the Act. Stevens, 418 S.W.3d at 553 (citing Sullivan ex rel. Hightower Oil Co. v. Edwards Oil Co., 141 S.W.3d 544, 547 (Tenn. 2004); Garrison v. Bickford, 377 S.W.3d 659, 663 (Tenn. 2012)). Every word in the Act is presumed to have meaning and purpose. Ellithorpe, 479 S.W.3d at 827 (citing Johnson v. Hopkins, 432 S.W.3d 840, 848 (Tenn. 2013)). We give the words of the Act "their natural and ordinary meaning in the context in which they appear and in light of the statute's general purpose," and we apply the Act's plain meaning when it is clear, enforcing the statute as written. Id. (quoting Johnson, 432 S.W.3d at 848).

II.

The dispositive issue here is whether the Plaintiffs are asserting a "health care liability action" as defined by the Health Care Liability Act. Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-26-101(a)(1) (2012 & Supp. 2021). Section 29-26-101 was enacted as part of the Civil

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Justice Act of 2011, which amended the Tennessee Medical Malpractice Act.[7] Among other things, the Civil Justice Act removed references to "medical malpractice," inserted references to "health care liability," and defined a "health care liability action."[8] The Civil Justice Act was enacted soon after this Court's decision in Estate of French v. Stratford House, 333 S.W.3d 546 (Tenn. 2011), superseded by statute, Tennessee Civil Justice Act of 2011, ch. 510, §§ 8-9, 2011 Tenn. Pub. Acts 1505, as recognized in Ellithorpe, 479 S.W.3d at 826-27. In Estate of French, we held that the Medical Malpractice Act applied only to claims with allegations bearing a "substantial relationship to the rendition of medical treatment by a medical professional" or involving "medical art or...

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