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High court rules on recovery issue

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Under the statute governing the wrongful death of an unmarried adult with no dependents, the amount recoverable for reasonable medical and hospital expenses necessitated by the alleged wrongful conduct is the total amount ultimately accepted after contractual arrangements with an insurer, Medicare, or Medicaid, and not the total of the charges billed, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled today.

In James Butler as personal representative of the Estate of Nondis Jane Butler v. Indiana Department of Insurance as Administrator of the Patient's Compensation Fund, and Clarian Health Partners, Inc., No. 49S05-0805-CV-216, the Supreme Court addressed only the first contention of the estate's appeal of summary judgment entered in favor of the Indiana Department of Insurance: recovery for reasonable and necessary medical expenses under the applicable wrongful death statute was erroneously limited to the amounts paid and should have included the total amounts billed.

Nondis Jane Butler, an unmarried adult, initiated a medical negligence claim against Clarian Health Partners and other individual health care providers. She died before her claim was resolved and left no dependents. Her estate and Clarian settled; the estate was able to proceed for the balance of its claim for damages against the Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund.

The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the fund, ruling the estate isn't entitled to recover money that is the difference between the total of medical bills received and the amounts actually paid and accepted as full satisfaction by the medical providers.

The Supreme Court unanimously found the language of Indiana Code Section 34-23-1-2(c)(3)(A) to be unambiguous, which specifies that damages are allowable for reasonable medical, hospital, funeral, and burial expenses necessitated by the wrongful conduct that caused the death.

The open-ended language in subsection (c)(3) permits recovery of damages other than those designated in subsection (c)(3)(A) and (c)(3)(B), but doesn't direct the expansion of the circumscribed damages defined with in (A) and (B), wrote Justice Brent Dickson.

"We hold that, with respect to damages pursuant to Indiana Code § 34-23-1-2(c)(3)(A), when medical providers provide statements of charges for health care services to the decedent but thereafter accept a reduced amount adjusted due to contractual arrangements with the insurers or government benefit providers, in full satisfaction the charges, the amount recoverable under the statute for the '[r]easonable medical . . . expenses necessitated' by the wrongful act is the portion of the billed charges ultimately accepted pursuant to such contractual adjustments," wrote Justice Dickson.

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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