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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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  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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