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Appeals court reinstates proposed med mal complaint

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Finding that a Hendricks County court didn’t have jurisdiction to dismiss a man’s proposed complaint for damages under Trial Rule 41(E) or based on noncompliance under the Medical Malpractice Act, the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday reinstated the proposed complaint.

John Mooney filed his proposed complaint for damages with the Indiana Department of Insurance in November 2007 alleging that a group of unnamed family care physicians and a group of cardiologists committed medical malpractice that caused Joseph Mooney’s 2005 injuries and death. Mooney’s attorney, Lance Cline, informed the attorney of the family care physicians, Marilyn Young, and the cardiologists’ attorney, Peter Pogue, that he believed discovery would take a while to complete due to his schedule and the amount of evidence he sought.

Several years went by without Cline completing the discovery, which included depositions from Young’s and Pogue’s clients. He sought extensions of the 180-day deadline, to which neither Young nor Pogue objected. In 2012, the family care physicians sought to dismiss the proposed complaint for failure to comply with Trial Rule 41(E) and the Medical Malpractice Act. In July 2012, Hendricks Superior Judge Stephenie LeMay-Luken granted the request, dismissing the complaint with prejudice.

In John H. Mooney, as Special Administrator of the Estate of Joseph S. Mooney, Deceased v. Anonymous M.D. 4, Anonymous M.D. 5, and Anonymous Hospital, 32A04-1208-CT-414, the Court of Appeals reversed after finding the trial court abused its discretion when it dismissed Mooney’s proposed complaint under I.C. 34-18-10-14. The trial court may grant relief under this section when a party, attorney or panelist has failed to act as required under the Medical Malpractice Act and good cause has been shown for the failure to act. But there was no submission schedule in place at the time of the physicians’ motion for a preliminary determination, Judge Edward Najam pointed out. When Cline objected to a proposed schedule set by the panel chairman, neither Young nor Pogue responded in any way. In addition, Young had previously agreed to extend the 180-day deadline if necessary.

Also, Cline didn’t sit idly by as Young alleged. He tried several times for more than a year to set up depositions with Pogue, who never responded, and Young also did not schedule times for depositions with her client.

The trial court also didn’t have jurisdiction to dismiss the proposed complaint under Trial Rule 41(E) because under the Medical Malpractice Act, only the commissioner of the Department of Insurance can file a motion to dismiss under this trial rule, Najam wrote.

 

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