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COA reverses trial court in malpractice case

February 10, 2012

The Indiana Court of Appeals has sided with the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance in a medical malpractice case.

In Commissioner of the Indiana Dept. of Insurance v. Tim Black, as Husband and Personal Rep. of Kay Black, Deceased, No. 64A05-1104-CT-240, the commissioner contended the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. However, for the first time on appeal, Tim Black disputes the characterization of the commissioner’s motion as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Ind. Trial Rule 12(B)(6). He asserts that because additional supporting documents were attached to the motion to dismiss, the commissioner’s motion was converted into a motion for summary judgment pursuant to T.R. 56. The appellate court agreed.

Indiana’s medical review panel had unanimously concluded that Dr. Fred Harris of Porter Memorial Hospital failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care with regard to Tim Black’s wife, Kay Black. Kay Black had gone to the hospital’s emergency room in 2000, complaining of severe chest pain radiating down her left arm and nausea. An abnormal blood enzyme test indicated she might have suffered a heart attack, but when consulted by phone, Harris did not order heart monitoring or repeat enzyme testing. Hours later, Kay Black suffered a severe cardiac arrest that resulted in her needing a heart transplant.

Kay Black died in 2008 of an unrelated cause. In 2009, Tim Black, as his wife’s personal representative, filed a petition for payment of damages from the Patient Compensation Fund, asserting that Harris had agreed to make payment of his liability limit in the amount of $250,000, thereby establishing liability of the PCF under the Medical Malpractice Act.

The COA held that Black failed to provide sufficient evidence to establish an agreement with Harris and remanded on the motion for summary judgment for further proceedings.


 

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