Civil Cases – Opinions Released in Calendar Year 2023
Style: George Gary Ingram v. Dr. Michael Gallagher, et al.
TSC Docket Number: E2020-01222-SC-R11-CV
Date of TSC Opinion: May 17, 2023
Link to Opinion: Click here.
Summary by the Tennessee Supreme Court:
The issue before us is whether the voluntary dismissal of a defendant in a multi-defendant case that is governed by the Governmental Tort Liability Act (“GTLA”) may be set aside and the claim against the dismissed defendant reinstated on the motion of a plaintiff pursuant to Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 54.02. The plaintiff in this case initiated a healthcare liability action against a physician, a hospital, and two other defendants. Before any responsive pleading was filed by any defendant, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, naming only the physician as a defendant. The plaintiff subsequently filed a notice of voluntary dismissal that dismissed all of the defendants except the physician, and the trial court entered an order of voluntary dismissal the following day. In his answer to the amended complaint, the physician argued that the lawsuit should be dismissed under the GTLA because the hospital, which was his employer and a governmental entity, was not a defendant. The plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to alter or amend in which he sought to set aside the trial court’s order voluntarily dismissing the hospital from the action. The trial court denied the motion to alter or amend. The trial court later dismissed the hospital from the action with prejudice and granted a motion for summary judgment filed by the physician. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in denying the plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the order of voluntary dismissal. Upon our review of this case, we do not reach the question of whether the voluntary dismissal order could be altered or amended pursuant to Rule 54.02. Because the plaintiff removed the hospital from the lawsuit when he filed his amended complaint, the plaintiff’s notice of voluntary dismissal and the trial court’s order of voluntary dismissal were of no legal effect. Accordingly, there was no valid order of voluntary dismissal to alter or amend. As a result, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of the issues it deemed pretermitted as moot.
Link to Court of Appeals Opinion: https://www.tncourts.gov/sites/default/files/ingram_vs._gallagher_coa_opinion.pdf
Summary by the Court of Appeals:
This appeal arises from a healthcare liability action wherein the plaintiff initially sued the doctor, the hospital, and two other defendants. The plaintiff voluntarily dismissed the action without prejudice against all defendants except for the doctor. The doctor subsequently filed an answer to the complaint, stating that the action should be dismissed under the Governmental Tort Liability Act because the hospital, a governmental hospital entity and the doctor’s employer, was not a party to the action. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff filed a “Motion to Alter or Amend,” seeking to set aside the Trial Court’s order of dismissal in order to withdraw his voluntary dismissal of the hospital as a party. The Trial Court denied the plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend, determining that the voluntary dismissal order was a final order and that the plaintiff knew about the doctor’s employment with the hospital prior to the voluntary dismissal. We determine that the Trial Court erred by treating the plaintiff’s motion as a Tennessee Rule of Civil Procedure 60 motion, instead of a motion to revise pursuant to Rule 54.02, and further hold that the Trial Court erred by denying the plaintiff’s motion to revise the non-final order of voluntary dismissal.
Permission to Appeal Granted: November 17, 2021
Appellants’ Briefs Filed: January 28, 2022
Appellees’ Briefs Filed: March 25, 2022
Appellants’ Reply Brief Filed: April 8, 2022
Appellees’ Reply Brief Filed:
Amicus Briefs Permitted: None
Oral Argument Date: May 25, 2022
Link to Oral Argument Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vxy80Ixqzag