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'Continuing wrong' statute makes malpractice claim timely

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A doctor who was the subject of a malpractice claim due to his patient losing consciousness and causing a crash while driving is not entitled to summary judgment, the Indiana Court of Appeals held.

In Mary Alice Manley and Gary Manley v. Ryan J. Sherer, M.D., and Sherer Family Medicine, No. 59A01-1104-PL-190, Gary and Mary Alice Manley sued Dr. Ryan Sherer following a crash on Nov. 27, 2006, that left Mary Alice Manley with permanent debilitating injuries. She was hit head-on by Sherer’s patient, Kimberly Zehr, who lost consciousness while driving due to a medical condition and the effects of medication prescribed by Sherer.

On Nov. 25, 2008, the Manleys filed a proposed complaint against Sherer with the Indiana Department of Insurance. Sherer filed with the trial court a motion for preliminary determination of law and for summary judgment. The trial court subsequently granted summary judgment to Sherer on all of the Manleys’ claims and directed the entry of judgment in favor of Sherer.

Sherer said the Manleys’ complaint was not timely; the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act sets forth a two-year statute of limitations for claims by victims of alleged medical malpractice. That two-year time frame would have begun on Nov. 21, 2006, when Sherer last treated Zehr. But the Manleys claim that their complaint is saved by the doctrine of continuing wrong.

The COA held that a dispute of fact exists as to whether Sherer’s failure to warn Zehr not to drive while she was under his care constitutes a continuing wrong. Under that doctrine, the statute of limitations would be tolled until at least Nov. 27, 2008, which would make the Manleys’ complaint timely.   

The appellate court also held that because Sherer did not warn Zehr to stop driving altogether, there is a dispute of fact on the element of breach of duty, and Sherer is not entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law on that element. The COA remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.

 

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