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. Hysteria? Really Ben? Tell the young lady reported on in the link below that worrying about the sexualizing of our children is mere hysteria. Such thinking is common in the Royal Order of Jesters and other running sex vacays in Thailand or Brazil ... like Indy's Jared Fogle. Those tempted to call such concerns mere histronics need to think on this: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/a-12-year-old-girl-live-streamed-her-suicide-it-took-two-weeks-for-facebook-to-take-the-video-down/ar-AAlT8ka?li=AA4ZnC&ocid=spartanntp

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  3. This is happening so much. Even in 2016.2017. I hope the father sue for civil rights violation. I hope he sue as more are doing and even without a lawyer as pro-se, he got a good one here. God bless him.

  4. JLAP and other courtiers ... Those running court systems, have most substance abuse issues. Probably self medicating to cover conscience issues arising out of acts furthering govt corruption

  5. I whole-heartedly agree with Doug Church's comment, above. Indiana lawyers were especially fortunate to benefit from Tom Pyrz' leadership and foresight at a time when there has been unprecedented change in the legal profession. Consider how dramatically computer technology and its role in the practice of law have changed over the last 25 years. The impact of the great recession of 2008 dramatically changed the composition and structure of law firms across the country. Economic pressures altered what had long been a routine, robust annual recruitment process for law students and recent law school graduates. That has, in turn, impacted law school enrollment across the country, placing upward pressure on law school tuition. The internet continues to drive significant changes in the provision of legal services in both public and private sectors. The ISBA has worked to make quality legal representation accessible and affordable for all who need it and to raise general public understanding of Indiana laws and procedures. How difficult it would have been to tackle each of these issues without Tom's leadership. Tom has set the tone for positive change at the ISBA to meet the evolving practice needs of lawyers of all backgrounds and ages. He has led the organization with vision, patience, flexibility, commitment, thoughtfulness & even humor. He will, indeed, be a tough act to follow. Thank you, Tom, for all you've done and all the energy you've invested in making the ISBA an excellent, progressive, highly responsive, all-inclusive, respectful & respected professional association during his tenure there.

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