Most participants in the credentialing process are familiar with state statutes providing peer review immunity and confidentiality. The Tennessee statute analyzed in Smith v. Pratt and HCA Health Services of Tennessee, Inc. /d/b/a CentennialMedicalCenter take that immunity one step further.
In this malpractice case, the court held that Tennessee Code § 63-6-219 provides immunity for negligent credentialing. The Code cited provisions of the statutes stating that physicians, hospital administrators and employees, directors and trustees, and institutions and entities are immune from liability to any patient for damages resulting from any decision or action entered or acted upon by such committees within the scope or function of the duties of such medical review committees if made or taken in good faith without malice, and on the basis of facts reasonably known or reasonably believed to exist at the time. These immunity statutes are typically viewed from the prospective of aggrieved physicians seeking damages or other redress for the termination or denial of clinical privileges. Liability by hospitals for damages arising out of negligent credentialing decisions is well accepted in many states of this country. The court in Smith v. Pratt recognizes that the Tennessee statute, although "not a shining example of legislative drafting" as described by the court, clearly provides much greater immunity than typically associated with such statutes.