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Appeals court affirms order for expert witness to indemnify past employer

August 28, 2012

An expert for a plaintiff in a medical malpractice case who was ordered to execute a release indemnifying a former employer must do so, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

Ann Rachelle Johnson filed a proposed complaint against two unnamed doctors and an unnamed medical provider in 2008. Disputes over discovery ensued, including the defense’s request of the practice and educational background of a plaintiff’s expert, Illinois Dr. Hansel DeBartolo Jr.

The court ordered DeBartolo to execute a release indemnifying a prior employer, Delnor Community Hospital, but DeBartolo declined to do so, and Johnson appealed the court’s order.

“We only very rarely issue advisory opinions, though we observe that on at least one occasion, this Court has issued an opinion reversing a trial court’s order on a pretrial matter where it appeared that the court’s interpretation of a prior order would clearly prejudice parties not immediately affected by the appealed-from order. See Travelers Indem. Co. v. P.R. Mallory & Co., 772 N.E.2d 479 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002),” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in a unanimous opinion in Ann Rachelle Johnson v. Dr. A., Dr. B., and Medical Provider.

“Here, however, Johnson has not yet been subject to any order that has actively prejudiced her case. We therefore cannot conclude that Johnson’s appeal is properly perfected. … Yet neither are we certain that the defendants’ decision to pursue the order and the trial court’s grant of the order are acceptable discovery practices under our trial rules,” Bailey wrote.

“It is not clear to us that the trial court could sanction Johnson for Dr. DeBartolo’s failure to comply with the Order without abusing its discretion. Nevertheless, because Johnson does not yet face actual prejudice from the trial court’s order, we dismiss her appeal.”

 

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