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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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