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Summary judgment proper on issue of causation, COA rules

July 23, 2014

The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed summary judgment in favor of a doctor sued by a patient who claimed a delay in a diagnosis caused him to have increased pain and problems. The evidence doesn’t establish a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of causation.

Joseph Laycock was stabbed in the thigh with a red-hot welding wire at work and immediately treated by a work clinic nurse under the supervision of Dr. Joseph Sliwkowski. Three days later, Laycock went back to the clinic because of tightness and pain in his thigh. He was sent home and the next day, he went to the emergency room because of unbearable pain. He was diagnosed with compartment syndrome and underwent surgery for the condition.

Laycock filed a proposed medical malpractice complaint with the Department of Insurance, and a medical review panel unanimously ruled in favor of Sliwkowski. A year later, Laycock sued the doctor, alleging he had a duty to exercise reasonable care to see that Laycock obtained proper treatment.

Laycock’s expert witness, Dr. Herbert Hermele, testified that while it is important in general to not delay treatment regarding compartment syndrome, he could not say in Laycock’s case that his condition was worse because of the 24-hour delay in treatment.

The trial court granted Sliwkowski’s motion for summary judgment.

Laycock claimed on appeal there are questions of fact related to causation regarding the second time he went to the clinic regarding his thigh. He argued that the  approach outlined in Mayhue v. Sparkman, 653 N.E.2d, 1384, 1386 (Ind. 1995), should apply in his case, but the Court of Appeals judges rejected his claim. There is no claim or evidence that he had a 50 percent or worse chance of recovery from the original injury, so Mayhue is not applicable. Thus, traditional causation principles apply.

Hermele’s testimony was not sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact regarding whether Sliwkowski’s treatment was the proximate cause of Laycock’s injuries, so the appeals panel upheld summary judgment for the doctor in Joseph Laycock v. Joseph Sliwkowski, M.D., 79A04-1310-CT-521.
 

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