ILNews

Hospital duty to patients case granted transfer

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to a case in which judges were split on the duty a hospital owed to patients to prevent possible harm by refusing to release them to a suspected abuser.

The high court agreed to take Ava McSwane and Danielle Hays v. Bloomington Hospital and Healthcare System and Jean M. Eelma, M.D., No. 53A04-0705-CV-243, to decide what duty Bloomington Hospital owed to Ava McSwane's daughter, Malia Vandeneede, once it suspected Vandeneede came to the hospital with injuries from domestic abuse. Vandeneede was killed on the way home from the hospital by her ex-husband after she told hospital staffers she wanted to go home with him, even though the ex-husband was suspected of inflicting the injuries that sent Vandeneede to the hospital in the first place.

The majority ruled there may be occasions when a hospital has a duty to not discharge a patient to the care of a suspected abuser, and hospitals owe a duty to protect their patients, even from people who aren't affiliated with the hospital.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented, saying he found the rationale used by the majority was fundamentally flawed.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer this week to two other cases, Kerry L. Meredith v. State of Indiana, No. 89A04-0703-CR-148 and Estate of Margaret H. Prickett v. Marilyn Prickett Womersley, No. 71A03-0710-CV-488.

In Meredith, the appellate court reversed Kerry Meredith's conviction of possession of cocaine and found the trial court erred in admitting evidence of cocaine found in his car into trial. Meredith was pulled over because a police officer couldn't read the expiration date of his temporary license plate. Once the officer discovered the plate wasn't expired, instead of letting Meredith go, he asked Meredith to search his vehicle. Meredith consented and the officer found cocaine. The Court of Appeals determined once the officer discovered the plate wasn't expired, he should have let Meredith go.

In Prickett, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment regarding Marilyn Womersley's claim for compensation and reimbursement for time she spent caring for her mother. The appellate court also affirmed the denial of the estate's claim for summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the services Womersley provided to Margaret Prickett were necessities.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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