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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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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

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

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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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