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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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