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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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