Does duty stop at door?

August 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer yesterday to a case that will have implications on a hospital’s duty to protect its patients from suspected abusers. Indiana Lawyer Daily wrote about the case in March when the majority of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a hospital has a duty to protect patients from abusers. The case stems from the murder of a woman by her ex-husband after she was released from the hospital. Hospital staff suspected the injuries were caused by the ex-husband, but the woman denied any abuse when questioned, declined to stay in the hospital, and chose to leave with her ex-husband.

The court decision led to a dissent by Chief Judge John Baker who believed the majority erred in finding the hospital had a duty to the woman, saying the majority didn’t address how far the duty extends. He questions how far would the hospital have to go to keep people in the hospital – locking them in a room, or drugging them – in order to prevent them from leaving with suspected abusers.

If and how the Supreme Court rules on this case could create new issues of liability for hospitals regarding its patients. Many victims of domestic violence fear calling attention to their abuse or turning in their abuser. Hospitals have protocols to follow regarding cases of suspected abuse, which may not have been completely followed in this case. But if a suspected victim of domestic violence is of sound mind (something that is up for debate in the opinion) and voluntarily leaves with her suspected abuser, should the hospital be held responsible for future injuries or death? Should the duty of the hospital extend beyond the hospital’s door?
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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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