Third-party carriers are not included in the statute regarding filing proposed medical malpractice complaints with the Indiana Department of Insurance, so a woman’s complaint that was sent via FedEx within the two-year statute of limitations – but not stamped until after the limitations expired – is not considered timely filed, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled.
Bonnie Moryl argued that her proposed medical malpractice complaint stemming from the death of her husband on April 20, 2007, which she sent to the DOI on April 19, 2009, should be considered timely filed even though the department did not receive it and file stamp it until April 21. The defendants sought summary judgment, claiming the complaint was filed outside of the two-year statute of limitations, which the LaPorte Superior Court granted.
This is an issue of first impression for Indiana courts, in which Moryl claims that because Ind. Rules of Trial Procedure and the Rules of Appellate Procedure consider a pleading filed on the date it was deposited with a third-party carrier, the Medical Malpractice Act should also allow a proposed complaint to be considered filed with the DOI on the day it was sent FedEx Priority Overnight.
“Moryl correctly observes that (Trial Rule 5(F)(4) and Appellate Rule 23 deem various documents filed when they are deposited with a third-party carrier. However, Moryl fails to demonstrate that these rules extend to Indiana Code section 34-18-7-3(b). As the trial court pointed out in the summary judgment order, the issue here does not involve a filing in this court or with the trial court. Rather, the case involves a filing with Department, which is an administrative agency,” Judge John Baker wrote in Bonnie Moryl, as Surviving Spouse and Personal Rep. of the Estate of Richard A. Moryl, Deceased v. Carey B. Ransone, M.D.; La Porte Hospital; Dawn Forney, RN; Wanda Wakeman, RN BSBA; et al., 46A04-1112-CT-710.
“There are no provisions suggesting that a proposed complaint is considered filed with the Department – an administrative agency – when it is deposited with a third-party commercial carrier. And contrary to Moryl’s argument that the statutes are ambiguous regarding the use of a third-party carrier, Indiana Code section 34-18-7-3(b) provides that a proposed complaint is considered filed when a copy of the proposed complaint is delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the Department. The use of other methods such as first class mail, a third-party carrier, or messenger, commands that filing a medical malpractice complaint under Indiana Code section 34-18-7-1(b) occurs on the date that the pleadings or complaint is received.”
Baker also pointed out that the Indiana Supreme Court has made it clear that trial rules do not govern the operations of administrative agencies or conditions precedent to the judicial review of administrative decisions.