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Judges rule couple did not release medical providers from liability

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A trial court appropriately denied the partial summary judgment motion filed by medical providers in a malpractice claim, the Indiana Court of Appeals held, because the plaintiffs did not release the medical group from liability by filing a proof of claim with the doctor’s insurer, which was insolvent and being liquidated.

Cynthia Kendall went to Deaconess Hospital with stroke-like symptoms in 2002 and was examined by Dr. Peters. He said she experienced a “transient ischemic attack,” gave her some baby aspirin, discharged her despite continuing symptoms and told her to follow up with her family doctor. An hour later, Kendall was back at the hospital, and testing discovered she had a stroke.

Peters had medical malpractice insurance with PHICO Insurance Co. of Pennsylvania, with a liability limit of $250,000 and aggregate limit of $750,000. Four months after Kendall’s stroke, a court in Pennsylvania declared the insurer insolvent and appointed a liquidator. All polices were cancelled and Kendall would have to recover from the insurer’s assets by filing a proof of claim in the liquidation.

She and her husband filed two forms, one that omitted the amount of her claim, and later one that asked for $250,000. The proof of claim contains a provision, stating in part that “the undersigned hereby releases any and all claims which have been or could be made against such PHICO insured … .”

She and her husband filed their medical malpractice complaint in 2008 after a medical review panel found the medical providers met the applicable standard of care. In 2011, Kendall received $75,000 from PHICO – 30 percent of the $250,000 claim she made.

The trial court denied summary judgment on the issue of whether the Kendalls had released their claim against Peters.

In Michael W. Peters, M.D. and Deaconess Hospital, Inc. v. Cynthia S. Kendall and Michael J. Kendall, 82A01-1302-PL-55, the Court of Appeals found the proof of claim’s liability provision lacked the essential elements to render it a binding contract.

“In Indiana Insurance Guaranty Association, a hospital settled its malpractice liability with the patient’s estate, and the court held that the (Indiana Insurance Guaranty Association) was obligated to reimburse the hospital because its insurance policy would have required PHICO to pay the full amount of the claim had PHICO not been insolvent,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “Based on the supreme court’s holding, the Kendalls are entitled to compensation for Dr. Peters’ malpractice, if established, notwithstanding PHICO’s insolvency, and if PHICO fails to uphold the obligations of its policy, Dr. Peters must pay the first $250,000 of the Kendalls’ damages and then pursue recovery of those costs from the IIGA.”

“Accordingly, PHICO has a legal and contractual duty to pay its policy limit for any damages determined to be the result of Dr. Peters’ malpractice. It is, therefore, insufficient as consideration for the release of all liability that the Kendalls were permitted to file a Proof of Claim that obligated PHICO to do no more than it was already bound to do,” she continued.
 

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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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