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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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