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Court of Appeals reverses medical malpractice ruling

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Determining that a question exists about when the statute of limitations started running on a proposed medical malpractice complaint, the Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a decision in a case involving the death of a woman at an Indianapolis hospital after receiving medication prior to heart surgery.

In Irmina Gradus-Pizlo, M.D. and Select Specialty Hospitals Indianapolis, Inc. v. Donald Acton, No. 49A02-1106-CT-503, the appellate court reversed a decision by Marion Superior Judge Cynthia Ayers.

Myrtle Acton became Dr. Irmina Gradus-Pizlo’s patient in February 2006, and a year later the doctor determined the woman was a candidate for surgical correction of a heart defect. The doctor put her on a medication prior to surgery and Acton ended up suffering from ventricular tachycardia before going into full cardiac arrest at Methodist Hospital’s intensive care unit. She was stabilized and taken off the original medication, but subsequently died on April 12, 2006.

On April 1, 2008, her husband, Donald, filed a medical malpractice complaint against Dr. Gradus-Pizlo and Select Specialty Hospitals, and in 2010 the defendants filed summary judgment motions alleging that Acton had failed to comply with the Medical Malpractice Act statute of limitations. The trial court denied both motions after a hearing, finding genuine issues of material fact with regard to the trigger date of the two-year statute of limitations.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with Acton that he couldn’t have learned of any malpractice until after his wife’s death April 12, 2006. The claim specifically involves the enhanced medicine regime that Gradus-Pizlo ordered in March of that year, and the discovery date about the medicine’s implications was when she had the ventricular tachycardia on March 29, 2006. Since Acton’s complaint came three days later, he’s barred by the statute of limitations.

Addressing the doctrine of continuing wrong that Acton used to sidestep the statute of limitations argument, the appellate court determined that Myrtle Acton stopped receiving the medication at issue on March 29, and so the continuation of any possible wrong ended at that time.

The court found a similar result in looking at the allegations against Select Specialty Hospitals, finding that the hospital stopped giving her the medication on March 29 and that makes the medical malpractice complaint untimely. The panel didn’t address Acton’s argument about the continuation of a prescription by a doctor not in Select Specialty Hospital’s employment being considered medical malpractice on the hospital’s part.

The appellate court reversed and granted summary judgment to Gradus-Pizlo and the hospital.

 

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