OF JUDGMENT: 01/16/2019
JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES D. BELL TRIAL JUDGE:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: WALTER C. MORRISON IV TIM C.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: BRETT K. WILLIAMS A. KELLY SESSOMS
III JAMES EVERETT LAMBERT III JASON R. SCHEIDERER
J. WILSON, P.J., WESTBROOKS AND McDONALD, JJ.
In November 2016, Singing River Hospital (Singing River) sent
letters to patients who were treated for multiple sclerosis
by its employee, Dr. Terry Millette (Millette). The letter
said that there had been questions about Millette's
patient care and that re-evaluations of his patients were
needed. After Debra Green (Green) was reevaluated in May 2017
and learned she did not have multiple sclerosis, she sent a
notice of claim to the hospital in January 2018. On May 29,
2018, she filed a medical negligence suit against the
hospital seeking damages. Singing River, a Mississippi Tort
Claims Act (MTCA) entity, filed a motion to dismiss the
action, which the circuit court granted. It held that Green
failed to file suit within the statutorily prescribed time
limit, calculating the one-year limitation period to have
begun running on the November 16, 2016, the date of Singing
River's letter to Millette's patients. Green appeals
and after consideration of the law and the parties'
arguments, we reverse the court's judgment and remand.
Green had been Millette's patient for many years, both
when he was in private practice and after he became an
employee of Singing River in 2011. Over the years, she was
diagnosed with spasmodic torticollis, a neurological
disorder, for which she received Botox treatments. In August
2015 she reported to the nurse practitioner in Millette's
clinic at Singing River that she was falling frequently, that
her gait had become more unsteady, and that her memory was
not as sharp as it had been. An MRI was scheduled. After the
MRI, Green saw another nurse practitioner in the clinic who
documented symptoms of memory loss, unsteady gait, and
blurred vision. Her MRI revealed multiple white-matter
lesions in both hemispheres of her brain. This finding
resulted in a diagnosis of probable multiple sclerosis, and
medication to treat it was prescribed. She began having daily
injections of Copaxone in addition to her other medication.
She saw Millette in November 2015 when he determined that she
had possible demyelinating syndrome (a disease damaging the
protective covering of the nerve fibers, which includes
multiple sclerosis). Thereafter, Millette continued
prescribing medications consistent with her multiple
Unbeknownst to Green, three doctors communicated to hospital
officials their concerns about Millete's pattern of
diagnosis and/or treatment that they felt may be
inappropriate. In a memo dated May 10, 2016, these doctors
acknowledged that medicine is not an exact science and that
approaches to diagnosis and treatment may differ among
doctors. However, they said their concern "goes beyond
diagnostic error or uncertainty that we feel would be
expected. . . ." They attached a sampling of medical
records for the hospital to review, and reiterated that
"this communication does not serve to accuse any
individual of wrongdoing." They did not ask that any
action be taken against Millette. It is unclear what specific
actions Singing River took in response to this memo, but
ultimately it did result in Millette's separation from
the hospital and a letter being sent to his patients,
The November 16, 2016 letter reads in pertinent parts:
As a valued patient of Singing River Health System, your
health and well-being-and that of all our patients-are our
highest priority. As such, we want to share with you that Dr.
Terry Millette will no longer be practicing at the Neurology
Associates Clinic at Singing River Medical Park effective
. . . [W]e want to share with you the circumstances
surrounding Dr. Millette's departure and our plan for
moving forward with our patients.
Consistent with best medical practice, Singing River has
internal processes to review the quality of care that our
patients receive. Recently some questions were raised about
how Dr. Millette diagnoses and treats patients with multiple
sclerosis. As a result, we immediately began a review of Dr.
Millette's medical activity. During the course of this
ongoing review, the decision was made that Dr.
Millette would no longer base his practice at Singing River.
We recognize that competent medical professionals often have
differing opinions, especially when it involves complex
neurological conditions. Given the questions that have been
raised about Dr. Millette's medical practices, we would
like to work with you to obtain a re-evaluation of your
diagnosis and treatment plan with another doctor.
As a next step, we ask you or your caregiver to call us at
(228) 809-2000. You will be able to reach a dedicated team of
Singing River employees at that number seven ...