Jones judge to determine if Laurel nursing home licensed

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

tort laws.

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.