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Delayed submission of filing fee compared to dilemma created by a $7 horse-shoe nail

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In overturning the trial court’s ruling, the Indiana Supreme Court compared the case to Poor Richard’s admonition: “For want of a Nail the Shoe was lost; for want of a Shoe, the Horse was lost; and for want of a Horse the Rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy, all for want of Care about a Horse-shoe Nail.”

Ann and Richard Miller filed a medical malpractice complaint to the Indiana Department of Insurance by certified mail on March 18, 2008. After discovering the $7 statutory filing and processing fees were not included, the department sent the Millers’ attorney a letter on March 31 stating the mandatory fees needed to be sent within 30 days and that the complaint would “not be considered filed with the Department until the filing fees…[were] received.”

When Millers’ attorney received the letter April 4, he immediately sent the check. On April 7, the department received the check and re-file-stamped the proposed complaint April 7.

The defendants subsequently raised an affirmative defense of the statute of limitations and moved for summary judgment on that basis. They argued the Millers’ proposed complaint was untimely because it did not receive the requisite filing and processing fees until April 7, three days after the statutory period ended.

The Supreme Court disagreed in Ann L. Miller and Richard A. Miller v. Glenn L. Dobbs, D.O and Partners in Health, 15S05-1302-CT-91. It pointed to the language of the “Statute of Limitations” chapter of the state’s Medical Malpractice Act which states that “a proposed complaint under Indiana Code 34-18-8 is considered filed when a copy of the proposed complaint is delivered or mailed by registered or certified mail to the commissioner.”

This, the court held, suggests that a proposed complaint is considered filed regardless of whether the required fees are submitted with it.

 “Ultimately, as we read the statute, it does not mandate that the Millers’ claim is lost for want of this seven-dollar horse-shoe nail,” Justice Massa wrote for the court. “We therefore reverse the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and remand this case for further proceedings consistent with our opinion.”





 

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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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