ILNews

Hospital duty to patients case granted transfer

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer Thursday to a case in which judges were split on the duty a hospital owed to patients to prevent possible harm by refusing to release them to a suspected abuser.

The high court agreed to take Ava McSwane and Danielle Hays v. Bloomington Hospital and Healthcare System and Jean M. Eelma, M.D., No. 53A04-0705-CV-243, to decide what duty Bloomington Hospital owed to Ava McSwane's daughter, Malia Vandeneede, once it suspected Vandeneede came to the hospital with injuries from domestic abuse. Vandeneede was killed on the way home from the hospital by her ex-husband after she told hospital staffers she wanted to go home with him, even though the ex-husband was suspected of inflicting the injuries that sent Vandeneede to the hospital in the first place.

The majority ruled there may be occasions when a hospital has a duty to not discharge a patient to the care of a suspected abuser, and hospitals owe a duty to protect their patients, even from people who aren't affiliated with the hospital.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented, saying he found the rationale used by the majority was fundamentally flawed.

The Supreme Court also granted transfer this week to two other cases, Kerry L. Meredith v. State of Indiana, No. 89A04-0703-CR-148 and Estate of Margaret H. Prickett v. Marilyn Prickett Womersley, No. 71A03-0710-CV-488.

In Meredith, the appellate court reversed Kerry Meredith's conviction of possession of cocaine and found the trial court erred in admitting evidence of cocaine found in his car into trial. Meredith was pulled over because a police officer couldn't read the expiration date of his temporary license plate. Once the officer discovered the plate wasn't expired, instead of letting Meredith go, he asked Meredith to search his vehicle. Meredith consented and the officer found cocaine. The Court of Appeals determined once the officer discovered the plate wasn't expired, he should have let Meredith go.

In Prickett, the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment regarding Marilyn Womersley's claim for compensation and reimbursement for time she spent caring for her mother. The appellate court also affirmed the denial of the estate's claim for summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the services Womersley provided to Margaret Prickett were necessities.
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