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Attorneys challenge state's med-mal cap

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Two central Indiana attorneys have filed a challenge to Indiana's Medical Malpractice Cap, arguing the cap violates the Indiana Constitution. The challenge follows a jury verdict in which a widower won $8.5 million following his wife's death.

Attorneys John Muller of the Indianapolis firm Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, and Michael Stephenson of McNeely Stephenson Thopy & Harrold in Shelbyville, filed an objection on Sept. 11 to reduction of the jury's verdict on behalf of Timothy W. Plank in Marion Circuit Court. Plank's wife, Debra, died following surgery at Community North Hospital in Indianapolis.

She went to the hospital's emergency room three times complaining of abdominal pains, and was admitted Nov. 13, 2001. The hospital misplaced an X-ray that showed a small bowel obstruction. Her treating doctors didn't know of the obstruction. When surgery was finally performed, the surgeon discovered part of her intestines had died. Debra was put on life support and died Dec. 1, 2001.

Shortly after his wife's death, the hospital contacted Plank with a customer satisfaction survey and wanted to talk to her about her care in the hospital. He filed suit against the doctor and Community Hospitals of Indiana and won an $8.5 million jury verdict on Sept. 3, 2009. If the jury verdict stands, Plank intends to donate a substantial portion of it to a scholarship in Debra's name, Muller said.

The hospital requested that the jury verdict be reduced to $1.25 million pursuant to Indiana Code 34-18-14-3.

Plank's attorneys contend that the statute violates Section 20 of the Indiana Constitution, which reads "In all civil cases, the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate," and Section 23, which reads "The General Assembly shall not grant to any citizen, or class of citizens, privileges or immunities upon which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens."

Muller said that there was a 1980 case which challenged the overall constitutionality of the Medical Malpractice Act, but there wasn't a challenge specific to the cap as this case contemplates. In Johnson v. St. Vincent Hospital , 273 Ind. 374, 404 N.E.2d 585 (1980), the Indiana Supreme Court determined the occurrence-based statute of limitations contained in the act was constitutional. In that case, the high court was only asked to decide whether the automatic admission of medical review panel opinions interfered with the judicial power to generally admit evidence.

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  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

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