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. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.