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Court clarifies ruling on medical review panel process

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has clarified one of its earlier rulings about when nurses can participate in medical malpractice actions and what evidentiary rules allow in the review panel process if the chairperson reneges on an agreement that a particular individual wouldn’t participate.

In Doe Corp., an Anonymous Health Care Provider, v. Lolita C. Honore , No. 49A05-1007-MI-408, the appellate court revisited and clarified its ruling issued April 27.

The case involves a woman residing at an unnamed Hamilton County health care facility from December 2002 until her death in April 2004. Her estate filed a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance alleging a breach in the reasonable standard of medical and nursing care while the woman was there, and in 2007 that case went before a Medical Review Panel as outlined in the Medical Malpractice Act.

One member of that review panel was a nurse, and the panel chair agreed that the nurse wouldn’t be able to offer any medical causation opinions reserved by law for physicians. But the chairman went against that agreement in 2009 and included the nurse in a written opinion about causation. That opinion found Doe Corp. failed to meet the reasonable standard of care.

Doe asked the trial court to make a preliminary determination of law regarding the validity of the review panel’s decision, which included the nurse member despite the chair’s previous agreement based on statute. The trial court dismissed Doe’s motion on the grounds it lacked subject matter jurisdiction, because a similar action was pending in another state court. Doe appealed.

The Court of Appeals in April determined the trial court did have subject matter jurisdiction on the issue of enforcing the requirement that the review panel chair carry out his statutory duties, and the appellate panel determined the trial judge had erred by dismissing the motion for PDL on Trial Rule 12(B)(8) grounds.

In this rehearing ruling, the appellate court allowed the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association to participate and revisited the case for the limited purpose of clarifying its holding about the role of the Rules of Evidence in the Medical Review Panel process.

Registered nurses or licensed practical nurses are included within the statutory definition of health care providers under the MMA able to be chosen as members of any medical review panel, the appellate court said.

“To be clear, no case has limited a nurse’s right to opine on the issue of causation as an MRP member,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote. “Rather, the limitation has been placed upon the nurse’s ability to testify at the summary judgment stage or trial. That limitation on the nurse’s testimony regarding causation comes from Evidentiary Rule 702 because of the ‘significant difference in the education, training, and authority to diagnose and treat diseases between physicians and nurses.’”

The appeals court noted, “the portion of our statement for ‘allowing the nurse to opine on causation’ should have been further qualified by the phrase ‘in contravention of the parties’ agreement and the MRP Chair’s representations to them in that regard.’”

The parties and the chair had agreed not to include the nurse member in the written opinion regarding causation, the appeals court wrote. But to Doe’s surprise, that didn’t happen.

“Absent statutory authority for judicial enforcement of such agreements, there are nonetheless due process concerns that may warrant a sanction under I.C. 34-18-10-23 for the MRP Chair’s failure to abide by the agreement,” the appeals court wrote. “We believe that the trial court should be afforded the opportunity to consider the issue of whether a sanction is warranted here for the MRP Chair’s failure to abide by the parties’ agreement and remand for a determination of that issue.”

 

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  1. Indiana's seatbelt law is not punishable as a crime. It is an infraction. Apparently some of our Circuit judges have deemed settled law inapplicable if it fails to fit their litmus test of political correctness. Extrapolating to redefine terms of behavior in a violation of immigration law to the entire body of criminal law leaves a smorgasbord of opportunity for judicial mischief.

  2. I wonder if $10 diversions for failure to wear seat belts are considered moral turpitude in federal immigration law like they are under Indiana law? Anyone know?

  3. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  4. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  5. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

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