A medical malpractice complaint was timely filed when an attorney delivered it to Federal Express a day before the statutory deadline, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled, reversing lower court orders and remanding the complaint to the trial court.
Justices reversed a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants that was issued by a LaPorte Superior Court and affirmed by the Court of Appeals in Bonnie Moryl, as Surviving Spouse and Personal Representative of the Estate of Richard A. Moryl v. Carey B. Ransone, M.D., La Porte Hospital, Dawn Forney, RN, Wanda Wakeman, RN BSBA, et al., 46S04-1403-CT-149.
In a unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Brent Dickson, justices settled an issue of first impression, holding “that the commencement of a medical malpractice action occurs when a copy of the proposed complaint is deposited for mailing by registered mail or by certain private delivery services and that the plaintiff’s complaint was timely filed in this case.”
Richard Moryl died under the defendants’ care at LaPorte Hospital on April 20, 2007, and the proposed malpractice complaint was sent via FedEx to the Indiana Department of Insurance on April 19, 2009. The department received and file stamped the complaint April 21, one day after the filing deadline, and the trial court granted summary judgment on the basis of untimely filing.
Justices analyzed conflicting statutes that until recent years were ambiguous as to whether cases were deemed filed when provided to a courier or third-party carriers other than the U.S. Postal Service. Longstanding Indiana law has provided that matters are filed when they are delivered or mailed by certified or registered mail.
"Our decision constitutes a refusal to elevate form over substance," Dickson wrote. "We see no substantive difference between a proposed medical malpractice complaint mailed via FedEx Priority Overnight, tracking and return receipt requested, and a proposed complaint mailed via USPS registered and certified mail. And neither does the Indiana General Assembly, as evident by their adoption of Indiana Code section 1-1-7-1."