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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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