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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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