Medical Malpractice

Medical Malpractice

Top Medical Malpractice Lawyer Knoxville

Common Causes of Medical Malpractice

Doctor Mistakes, Hospital Errors

When a hospital, doctor, pharmacist, nurse or other medical professional makes a mistake, when the injury is serious, how can you find an experienced medical malpractice attorney? Call the Butler, Vines & Babb law firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. We are the lawyers other lawyers depend on for medical malpractice experience.

The emphasis of several of the members of Butler, Vines and Babb is medical negligence law. Two members of the firm are certified as civil trial specialists with the Tennessee Commission on Specialization and by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Members of the firm have been called upon by groups including bar associations to give seminars regarding the handling of medical negligence cases.

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The laws governing medical malpractice claims are strict. As soon as you are aware of your injuries, you need to take action. There are statutes of limitation that can bar your claim if you wait too long. Additionally, the sooner you take action, the greater the likelihood we will be able to gather all of the necessary evidence to prove your case.

Types of Medical Malpractice Injuries

From birth injuries to diagnostic failures, investigation is essential.

It isn’t always easy getting to the truth in a medical negligence case. Our law firm’s attorneys and medical doctor work with experts on a wide range of cases:

  • Brain damage following surgery
  • Birth injuries
  • Failure to diagnose and treat cancer, a heart attack or other medical conditions
  • Defective heart valve or other defective medical devices
  • Failure to diagnose internal injuries
  • Pharmacy errors

Review our personal injury results . Let us know how we can help you.

Specific Issues in Medical Malpractice Cases

There are a number of specific issues in medical malpractice cases that are not present in other personal injury cases. For instance, before a person can sue a doctor for medical malpractice, they must first present testimony from an expert, who is usually another doctor, to confirm that the doctor did not meet the standard of care.

Further, Tennessee law states that any expert witness must be from Tennessee or in a state that borders Tennessee. And an expert witness must be able to demonstrate familiarity with the standard of care in the city or town where the defendant doctor practices medicine.

Our law firm has a medical doctor on staff.

Having a medical doctor available to us for consultation is an important advantage to our clients, because your case needs to be evaluated quickly and referred to the appropriate expert witnesses. These persons are specially trained to assist in evaluating whether a patient was negligently injured by medical care. Hundreds of potential cases have been reviewed, generally at the request of other law firms, for the initial evaluation of the merits of the case. The firm also has established contacts with physicians at medical institutions who are willing to assist with an objective analysis of potential cases.

Special Difficulties for Persons Injured by Medical Negligence

The Proof

Medical negligence law differs from other fields of litigation. In an automobile accident situation, a person injured in an accident may be able to simply go to court, explain to the jury how the accident happened, and seek from the jury a ruling as to whether there is liability in the accident.

In medical negligence law, statutes have been passed that require an injured person to present testimony from other experts (generally physicians) who can say that there has been medical negligence which the law describes as “a deviation in the standard of care.” Without such expert testimony, the cases are generally lost.


Tennessee has special statutory requirements which restrict the ability of patients to obtain expert witnesses to support a claim. In Tennessee, an expert witness who testifies must be from the state of Tennessee or a state that touches Tennessee. Further, the expert must have been in practice for one year preceding the events in question.

The Locality Rule

For a witness to be able to testify on behalf of a party in a medical negligence case, the witness must be able to state that they are familiar with the standard of care for the medical practitioner in the community in which the defendant practitioner practices or in a similar community. This rule requires that care be given in consulting with potential expert witnesses who can show familiarity with the community of the defendants or a community which qualifies under the law as being similar. In summary, even though an expert witness may practice in the same category of specialty, unless he/she can meet the qualification of claiming to know the standard of care in the community or knows the standard of care in a similar community, that witness may be excluded by the court without being able to testify on behalf of the party.

Obviously Tennessee injured patients have some difficulty due to the statutory restrictions. Attorneys who have practiced in the field of medical negligence law for a long period of time, such as those at Butler, Vines and Babb, PLLC, have staffs consisting of medical specialists, including nurses and physicians, who may help advise and assist in requesting proper and qualified expert witnesses.

Statutes of Limitation

In Tennessee, the statute of limitations is shorter than some other jurisdictions. An injured adult patient must sue within one year from the time the cause of action arose. As a general principle, the one year begins from the date of discovery of the potential cause of action.

Three Year Statute of Repose

Regardless of the date of discovery of the cause of action, in Tennessee the legislature has passed a statute which states that all cases must be brought within three years from the date of the event. This statute is called a statute of “repose.” It is possible in Tennessee that this statute can run even though you did not have full awareness of the injury.

It is, therefore, important in Tennessee to investigate with qualified persons the possibility of a cause of action and not to delay. Delay could result in the loss of a potential cause of action.

Birth Injuries and Injuries to Children

The Tennessee Supreme Court has recently held that injury for a child must be filed within three years from the date the injury occurred if it involves medical malpractice. It was previously thought to be the law that a minor would have until that minor reached the age of 18. This is no longer true and anyone who feels their child has been injured by medical negligence should move quickly to determine if a claim is meritorious.

Calaway v. Schucker, Tennessee Supreme Court No. M2004-02856-SC-R23-CQ

Medical Expenses

Special rules may apply regarding the ability to collect for medical expenses made necessary as a result of medical negligence. Those rules may be different from other types of cases such as automobile accidents. In Tennessee, the legislature has passed a statute which restricts patients from being able to collect for medical expenses where those expenses have been paid through insurance that was furnished by an employer or a governmental entity. There are exceptions to this rule, such as where the patient pays a portion of the insurance premium and/or where there is a right of the health insurance company to collect back the payments it made (subrogation).


In recent years, many of the medical negligence cases have been settled by compromise in a procedure known as “mediation.” The parties, generally including the involved insurance companies, go to the office of a mediator who assists the parties in helping to understand the concerns of each side of the case and helping the parties to determine a reasonable amount for a settlement. The mediation process is usually voluntary and has proven to be very successful in cases that have true merit.

Some of the attorneys at Butler, Vines and Babb, PLLC have been certified as Tennessee Supreme Rule 31 General Civil Mediators.

The Trial

In trial in state court in Tennessee, there is a right to a jury if one is requested. Generally there is a 12-person jury. A unanimous verdict is required for a patient to recover. If a medical negligence case qualifies to be in federal court, often there will only be a 6-person jury.

Comparative Fault

If there are several medical practitioners whose acts combine to cause the injury, the jury may be allowed to allocate fault among those. This is in Tennessee called the Doctrine of “Comparative Fault.”

The Importance of Investigation

It cannot be stressed too heavily that proper and early investigation of medical negligence cases is important to determine their merit. Medical negligence cases are often complex, involve technical issues, and require diligence and hard work to prepare.

Representative cases

Our firm has represented a number of plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases, including the following:

  • Betty & Gerald Geldersma v. Michigan Pain Consultants and Dr. Noel Scott Aschraft, Kent County, Michigan Circuit Court (Failure to properly cleanse area before giving shot – massive infection resulted), ($5.8 million jury verdict)
  • Robin & Dennis Farley v. Oak Ridge Medical Imaging and Dr. James Rouse (Failure to diagnose breast cancer), ($2.8 million jury verdict)
  • Shannon Russell v. Dr. James Crutchfield, Campbell County Circuit Court ($1 Million jury verdict)
  • Danker v. Dr. Leonard Brabson, Knox County Circuit Court, Division I; ($1.1 Million jury verdict)
  • Teresa Walters v. Omer Renner, M.D. (injury during gynecological operation) ($350,000 jury verdict);
  • Hope O’Connor v. John Rodgers, M.D. and East Tennessee Children’s Consultants, P.C., Knox County Circuit Court (Failure to diagnose scoliosis, resulting in major surgery for child), ($865,000 jury verdict – December 1, 2000).

Other Medical Malpractice Settlements Subject to Confidentiality Agreement Required by Defendants

  • Total disability brain damage following surgery
  • Injury during laparoscopic cholecystectomy (Multiple cases)
  • Failure to treat impending heart attack (multiple cases)
  • Defective heart valve installed in patient
  • Failure to diagnose internal injuries

We put our law firm’s experience to work for you.

Our knowledge of medical issues, our investigative capabilities, our trial law experience and our dedication to personal care are at your service when we take your case. If you or a loved one has been injured because of doctor error, hospital mistakes, pharmacy error, nursing negligence or emergency room errors, contact us as soon as possible.

Please review our results page for an additional listing of results we have obtained for our clients.

Butler, Vines and Babb attorneys Bill Vines, Ron Koksal, Weldon Patterson, Leslie MuseDonna Davis, and Grant Mitchell represent individuals injured as a result of medical negligence. Click on their name to review their profile and contact information, or contact us for further information. You may also complete our medical malpractice intake form.