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COA affirms $550,000 med mal verdict; denies appellate attorney fees

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A Lake Superior judge did not err when he allowed a witness to testify on behalf of the party bringing a medical malpractice complaint against a doctor nor in excluding the testimony of the doctor’s expert witness due to untimely disclosure, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

The estate of John E. Robinson won a $550,000 jury verdict in a medical malpractice complaint filed against Dr. John O. Carter. John Robinson saw Carter with complaints of stress. Carter performed a physical exam and diagnosed Robinson with severe stress and insomnia and prescribed two drugs. That afternoon, Robinson died.

His wife, Loretta, whom he was separated from at the time of his death, hired Dr. James Bryant to perform an autopsy. Bryant concluded that John Robinson died from acute and chronic congestive heart failure. Loretta Robinson filed her proposed medical complaint with the Department of Insurance in 2004 and then filed her lawsuit in 2009.

Carter died unexpectedly several weeks before the June 2011 trial date. His estate sought to introduce an expert witness to rebut Bryant’s conclusions, but the Lake Superior Judge Jeffery Dywan denied his request. Dywan also allowed Bryant to testify over the estate’s objections.

In Mark Carter and John E. Carter, Co-Personal Rep. of the Estate of John O. Carter, M.D., Deceased v. Loretta Robinson, Individually and as Admin. of the Estate of John E. Robinson, Deceased, 45A05-1110-CT-563, the Court of Appeals rejected the estate’s contention that Bryant’s testimony as an expert witness should have been excluded under Ind. Evidence Rule 702. The estate argued that Bryant found one reason as to how John Robinson died and then did not rule out other possible causes. The judges found the autopsy report’s cause of death was derived by employing the differential etiology method, as Bryant did look at other causes and rule them out.

The COA judges also upheld the decision to not allow the estate’s expert witness, Dr. Michael Kaufman, to testify. Kaufman would have spoke about perceived flaws in Bryant’s methodology. The judges agreed that Kaufman was not timely disclosed as a witness. Bryant was deposed by Carter’s counsel in April 2011, although Carter knew he was an expert witness in July 2009. In May 2011, the estate hired Kaufman, but did not include Kaufman on a June 6, 2011, witness disclosure list. It wasn’t until just a few weeks before trial that the estate attempted to add Kaufman as a witness.

The judges pointed out that Carter’s attorney was still able to point out the weaknesses and perceived flaws within Bryant’s methodology and place those before the jury. They also affirmed the refusal to tender final jury instruction No. 3 with the phrase, “This determination should not be based on hindsight,” as another final instruction included language similar in form and substance.

Loretta Robinson’s request for appellate attorney fees was denied.
 

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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