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. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

ADVERTISEMENT