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Inmate loses negligence suit on appeal

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for the Adams County sheriff, finding an inmate was unable to make a prima facie case for negligence. The inmate sued after contracting a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus – or MRSA – infection after visiting the hospital.

Adams County Jail inmate Christopher Halterman submitted medical requests concerning boils on his buttock. He went to Adams Memorial Hospital in 2009 for an outpatient surgery. A follow-up check by a nurse practitioner at the jail led to the discovery that Halterman had developed MRSA. This led to multiple surgeries, including a colostomy.

Halterman filed a lawsuit for negligence and included Adams County Sheriff Charles Padgett as a defendant. The defendants moved for summary judgment, which was granted.

At issue in Christopher Halterman v. Adams County Board of Commissioners, Adams County Sheriff, Charles Padgett, Adams County Sheriff's Dept. and Adams County Jail, 01A04-1211-CT-558, is the grant of summary judgment in favor of Padgett and the allowance of an affidavit of Dr. Bev House. The COA ruled that trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Halterman’s motion to strike the doctor’s affidavit. The doctor reviewed Halterman’s complaint, jail records, hospital records and depositions to make the decision that any different action by the jail would not have prevented the MRSA infection.

“Dr. House relied on the kinds of designated evidence we determined in Bunch (v. Tiwari, 711 N.E. 2d 844, 848 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999)) was appropriate in the medical field, and therefore the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it denied Halterman’s motion to strike Dr. House’s affidavit,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

The judges also agreed with the trial court that the defendants did not cause Halterman’s injuries.

“Halterman has not directed us to any designated evidence that would permit an inference that his injuries were caused by Sheriff Padgett,” May wrote. “In addition, he did not designate any evidence indicating earlier medical intervention or a different treatment strategy would have changed the outcome of his situation.”

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