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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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