Does duty stop at door?

August 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer yesterday to a case that will have implications on a hospital’s duty to protect its patients from suspected abusers. Indiana Lawyer Daily wrote about the case in March when the majority of the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a hospital has a duty to protect patients from abusers. The case stems from the murder of a woman by her ex-husband after she was released from the hospital. Hospital staff suspected the injuries were caused by the ex-husband, but the woman denied any abuse when questioned, declined to stay in the hospital, and chose to leave with her ex-husband.

The court decision led to a dissent by Chief Judge John Baker who believed the majority erred in finding the hospital had a duty to the woman, saying the majority didn’t address how far the duty extends. He questions how far would the hospital have to go to keep people in the hospital – locking them in a room, or drugging them – in order to prevent them from leaving with suspected abusers.

If and how the Supreme Court rules on this case could create new issues of liability for hospitals regarding its patients. Many victims of domestic violence fear calling attention to their abuse or turning in their abuser. Hospitals have protocols to follow regarding cases of suspected abuse, which may not have been completely followed in this case. But if a suspected victim of domestic violence is of sound mind (something that is up for debate in the opinion) and voluntarily leaves with her suspected abuser, should the hospital be held responsible for future injuries or death? Should the duty of the hospital extend beyond the hospital’s door?
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  1. I need an experienced attorney to handle a breach of contract matter. Kindly respond for more details. Graham Young

  2. I thought the slurs were the least grave aspects of her misconduct, since they had nothing to do with her being on the bench. Why then do I suspect they were the focus? I find this a troubling trend. At least she was allowed to keep her law license.

  3. Section 6 of Article I of the Indiana Constitution is pretty clear and unequivocal: "Section 6. No money shall be drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious or theological institution."

  4. Video pen? Nice work, "JW"! Let this be a lesson and a caution to all disgruntled ex-spouses (or soon-to-be ex-spouses) . . . you may think that altercation is going to get you some satisfaction . . . it will not.

  5. First comment on this thread is a fitting final comment on this thread, as that the MCBA never answered Duncan's fine question, and now even Eric Holder agrees that the MCBA was in material error as to the facts: "I don't get it" from Duncan December 1, 2014 5:10 PM "The Grand Jury met for 25 days and heard 70 hours of testimony according to this article and they made a decision that no crime occurred. On what basis does the MCBA conclude that their decision was "unjust"? What special knowledge or evidence does the MCBA have that the Grand Jury hearing this matter was unaware of? The system that we as lawyers are sworn to uphold made a decision that there was insufficient proof that officer committed a crime. How can any of us say we know better what was right than the jury that actually heard all of the the evidence in this case."

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