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Justices rule on Journey’s Account Statute

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The Indiana Supreme Court believes general negligence claims filed with the Indiana Department of Insurance can continue an action already filed in state court relating to medical malpractice issues.

A unanimous decision came today in Suzanne Eads and James Atterholt v. Community Hospital, No. 45S03-1001-CV-33, reversing a ruling by Lake Circuit Judge Lorenzo Arredondo that was affirmed last year by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In a split decision in July 2009, the appellate court had determined the state’s Journey's Account Statute did not apply to a woman's medical malpractice claim filed after the two-year statute of limitations expired. The two-judge majority affirmed summary judgment in favor of the hospital in Suzanne Eads' medical malpractice claim. Eads' leg was put in a cast and her request for a wheelchair was denied so she left the hospital on crutches. She fell in a foyer area and injured her back and left hand.

She originally filed a negligence complaint against the hospital nearly two years after the fall. In 2007, the hospital argued the suit should be dismissed because it was a medical malpractice claim that had to be filed before the Indiana Department of Insurance. Eads then filed the proposed medical malpractice claim with the IDOI, relying on the same facts as the negligence case.

While the trial and appellate court ruled against Eads, the justices found in her favor.

“We agree that a medical malpractice claim is in some respects, as the Court of Appeals put it, ‘wholly different’ from a general negligence claim,” Justice Theodore Boehm wrote. “But we do not agree that the differences between the two are the ‘source of the liability.’ The MMA does not create a new cause of action. It merely requires that claims for medical malpractice that are recognized under tort law and applicable statutes be pursued through the procedures of the MMA.”

Noting that the law requires those claims be brought no later than three years after the termination of the first action or the statute of limitations, the JAS applies here and has a different limitation period, Justice Boehm wrote.

The justices also discounted one of the hospital’s arguments, which was that this JAS requirement wasn’t met because the hospital didn’t have notice of the financial exposure presented by the claim.

“The Hospital says it establishes reserves for claims sounding in general negligence differently than it establishes reserves for those sounding in medical malpractice,” he wrote. “This may be true, but the MMA itself generally prohibits a request for specific damage awards in the proposed IDOI complaint. I.C. § 34-18-8-3. To the extent there is a difference in reserves due to the caps on medical malpractice recovery or other procedural differences in medical malpractice cases, these are matters of law that the Hospital is equipped to evaluate for itself.”
 

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  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."

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