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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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