ILNews

Immunity extends to underlying diagnoses

Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

ADVERTISEMENT