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Immunity extends to underlying diagnoses

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In a matter of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a hospital's statutory immunity for reporting suspected child abuse to authorities extends to its underlying diagnosis.

In Anonymous Hospital v. A.K., et al., No. 45A03-0901-CV-2, on interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals today reversed the trial court's denial of the hospital's petition for preliminary determination of law and motion for summary judgment on a family's medical malpractice claim. The parents of infant daughter S.K. filed the claim after lab analysis of a urine sample of S.K. showed sperm present in her urine. The parents brought S.K. to the hospital due to an unexplained fever. Based on two samples that showed sperm, hospital personnel contacted the local child protection services and police.

S.K. was admitted and a third sample taken the next day did not contain any sperm. CPS investigated the situation and allowed her to be discharged. S.K.'s 12-year-old stepbrother was questioned and counseled because he admitted he had masturbated, not cleaned himself, and then held his sister while she was naked. As such, the lab results were accurate, but there was no abuse found.

The parents argued the hospital committed the malpractice by negligently testing the urine samples and reporting the results to authorities before confirming the accuracy of the results. They claimed reporting an allegation of child abuse without being sure would rebut the presumption of good faith.

The appellate judges disagreed, believing the immediate reporting suggested the hospital had a good faith belief S.K. was in immediate danger, wrote Senior Judge Betty Barteau.

The parents also argued the hospital's immunity should be limited to the report of suspected abuse and shouldn't extend to the underlying diagnosis. Turning to other jurisdictions' rulings on this matter, the appellate court concluded Indiana Code Section 31-33-6-1 provides immunity for any individual making a report, as well as anyone participating in any actions that cause the report to be made.

"The phrase 'causes to be made' in the statute necessarily includes the examination, testing and diagnosis of the child by health care providers," the judge wrote.

The purpose of the child abuse reporting statute is to encourage effective reporting of suspected abuse or neglect, provide prompt investigations, and protect children. The legislature's stated goals are better met when individuals attempting to comply with the reporting statute can do so without the fear of civil liability, Judge Barteau continued. If not, it would have a chilling effect on the reporting of child abuse.

"Health care providers would be placed in a 'Catch 22' - report the suspected abuse and be subject to civil liability, or fail to report the suspected abuse and be subject to criminal liability. This illogical result cannot be what our legislature intended," she wrote.

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  1. It is amazing how selectively courts can read cases and how two very similar factpatterns can result in quite different renderings. I cited this very same argument in Brown v. Bowman, lost. I guess it is panel, panel, panel when one is on appeal. Sad thing is, I had Sykes. Same argument, she went the opposite. Her Rooker-Feldman jurisprudence is now decidedly unintelligible.

  2. November, 2014, I was charged with OWI/Endangering a person. I was not given a Breathalyzer test and the arresting officer did not believe that alcohol was in any way involved. I was self-overmedicated with prescription medications. I was taken to local hospital for blood draw to be sent to State Tox Lab. My attorney gave me a cookie-cutter plea which amounts to an ALCOHOL-related charge. Totally unacceptable!! HOW can I get my TOX report from the state lab???

  3. My mother got temporary guardianship of my children in 2012. my husband and I got divorced 2015 the judge ordered me to have full custody of all my children. Does this mean the temporary guardianship is over? I'm confused because my divorce papers say I have custody and he gets visits and i get to claim the kids every year on my taxes. So just wondered since I have in black and white that I have custody if I can go get my kids from my moms and not go to jail?

  4. Someone off their meds? C'mon John, it is called the politics of Empire. Get with the program, will ya? How can we build one world under secularist ideals without breaking a few eggs? Of course, once it is fully built, is the American public who will feel the deadly grip of the velvet glove. One cannot lay down with dogs without getting fleas. The cup of wrath is nearly full, John Smith, nearly full. Oops, there I go, almost sounding as alarmist as Smith. Guess he and I both need to listen to this again: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRnQ65J02XA

  5. Charles Rice was one of the greatest of the so-called great generation in America. I was privileged to count him among my mentors. He stood firm for Christ and Christ's Church in the Spirit of Thomas More, always quick to be a good servant of the King, but always God's first. I had Rice come speak to 700 in Fort Wayne as Obama took office. Rice was concerned that this rise of aggressive secularism and militant Islam were dual threats to Christendom,er, please forgive, I meant to say "Western Civilization". RIP Charlie. You are safe at home.

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