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Judge dismisses claims against hospital in discovery dispute

May 18, 2017

A federal judge has dismissed a man’s claims in a complaint accusing the Indiana Supreme Court, a hospital and the chair of a medical review panel of violating his due process rights. The judge found that federal precedent and a failure to state a claim barred the man’s claims against the hospital.

In May 2011, Dexter Rogers’ mother, Carrie Bell Rogers, died. Her son filed a medical malpractice claim with the Indiana Department of Insurance, claiming Parkview Hospital Inc. was negligent in its care of his mother, resulting in her death. Specifically, Rogers alleged his mother, a black woman, was provided care that was inferior to the care white patients in similar situations received.

After a discovery dispute ensued, the Allen Superior Court ordered Parkview to produce certain documents and make its CEO available for a discovery deposition. The Indiana Court of Appeals, however, reversed and found Rogers’ discovery request was outside the scope of Indiana Trial Rule 26.

But Rogers maintained Parkview had failed to justify its refusal to produce its CEO, and further argued the Court of Appeals’ decision had violated his due process rights. He sought transfer with the Indiana Supreme Court, which was denied. Rogers then alleged the denial of transfer to his case was also a violation of his due process rights.

After the Supreme Court denied transfer, counsel for Parkview contacted John Whiteleather Jr., who had been selected as chair of the medical review panel, and asked him to set a schedule for evidentiary submissions to the panel. Rogers, however, claimed he was not yet prepared to proceed to the panel hearings based on the Court of Appeals’ decision, and then alleged Whiteleather attempted to move the panel process forward because Rogers was black and Parkview’s counsel was white.

Rogers filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, naming Parkview, Whiteleather and all five justices of the Indiana Supreme Court as defendants. He asked the district court to “issue a judgment declaring that the acts of the Defendants were unlawful and unconstitutional, award him damages, restrain the Defendants from violating the Plaintiff’s constitutional rights, and issue a preliminary injunction.”

But Parkview argued multiple theories to dispose of Rogers’ case, including the theory that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine barred district court action and that Rogers failed to sufficiently plead his complaint. Northern District Court Judge Theresa L. Springmann accept both of those arguments Wednesday and issued an order dismissing Rogers’ complaint against the hospital.

First, Springmann wrote the Rooker-Feldman doctrine applied in this case because, “The Court cannot discern any independent claims from the Plaintiff’s Complaint…that would provide a jurisdictional basis independent of redressing the outcome of the state court proceedings.”

Further, “the Complaint does not set forth factual allegations that raise the Plaintiff’s right to relief about the speculative level,” the judge said, so Rogers’ case would fail even absent the Rooker-Feldman bar.

“The Indiana Court of Appeals’ decision finding that Parkview was not required to produce its CEO for a deposition is strong evidence that Parkview refused to produce its CEO for legitimate objections under Indiana discovery rules, and not because of racial animus,” Springmann wrote.

The case is Dexter Rogers, et al. v. Indiana Supreme Court, et al., 1:16-CV-364.

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