Licensing by the state is required before
a defendant can claim protections under tort laws in medical
malpractice actions, the Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled.
The Supreme Court on Thursday reversed a Jones County judge's
order that dismissed a lawsuit filed by Robert Lee Saul against
Yvonne Jenkins and her nursing home.
Circuit Judge Billy Joe Landrum in 2006 dismissed the lawsuit
for several reasons, including Saul's failure to give Jenkins 60
days notice that he intended to file the action.
The Supreme Court said Landrum must determine whether Extra Care
was a licensed health care provider, a prerequisite to claiming
protection from malpractice claims.
According to the court record, Saul was in the nursing home from
May 5, 2004, through June 6, 2004. Saul claimed he was in stable
condition when he arrived at Extra Care, but his condition
On June 6, 2004, he was admitted to South Central Regional
Medical Hospital and was diagnosed with pneumonia, dehydration and
severe bed sores, according to court documents.
Saul sued Extra Care in 2006 for negligence. Jenkins moved to
dismiss the suit, arguing that Saul, among other things, had failed
to comply with the 60-day notice requirement of the law.
Saul argued that Jenkins was neither licensed nor certified to
provide health care and therefore ineligible for the protections of
Presiding Justice Bill Waller Jr., writing Thursday for the
Supreme Court, said tort laws bar malpractice lawsuits against
doctors, hospitals and other licensed health care providers unless
they are filed within two years of the date of the alleged wrongful
act. He said the law also requires plaintiffs to provide 60 days
notice of intention to file a lawsuit.
Waller said questions about whether a health care provider is
licensed is key to the law.
"Operating such an institution without a license is illegal per
se," Waller wrote. "This licensing requirement exists to insure
safe, sanitary and reasonably adequate care of individuals while
under the care of nursing home facilities.
Waller said the law clearly applies only to licensed health care
"Extending notice protections to unlicensed individuals rewards
a disregard for the law, because it affords unlicensed institutions
the same benefits as licensed, law-abiding institutions.
"If Jenkins lacked a proper license during this time, she is
not entitled to the same protections given to those properly
licensed institutions," he said.