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PCF may not present evidence to dispute injury

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The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that in a case involving a boy diagnosed with a mild form of cerebral palsy, the Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund may not present evidence to dispute the existence or cause of the boy’s injury while defending his petition for excess damages from the fund.

B.O. was diagnosed with spastic diplegia at age four and his parents filed a complaint under the Medical Malpractice Act, alleging the boy’s health care providers were negligent at his birth. The providers settled for a sum that allowed B.O. and his family to seek excess damages from the PCF.

The fund wanted to have five expert witnesses testify that B.O. either didn’t have spastic diplegia or if he did, it wasn’t the result of the conduct of the health care providers at his birth. The trial court granted the parents’ motion for partial summary judgment that the testimony couldn’t be offered; the Court of Appeals reversed.

The justices 4-0 affirmed the trial court in Stephen W. Robertson, Indiana Comm. of Insurance, as Admin. of Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund and The Indiana Patient's Compensation Fund v. B.O., A Minor, Lisa A. Ort and Kevin C. Ort, 49S04-1111-CT-671, finding the PCF is precluded from disputing the existence or cause of B.O.’s claimed injury based on Indiana Code 34-18-15-3(5). At issue is this sentence of the statute: “In approving a settlement or determining the amount, if any, to be paid from the patient’s compensation fund, the court shall consider the liability of the health care provider as admitted and established.” The parties’ arguments hinge on the meaning of “liability” and in what manner it is “admitted and established.”

In this instance, the health care providers chose to settle B.O.’s claim as to the causation of his cerebral palsy consisting of spastic diplegia, and thus that is the claim for which liability is “admitted and established,” Justice Mark Massa wrote, “including, by implication, the required elements of causation and injury.”

“We recognize that this means that the existence and type of injury that B.O. sustained is determined without the full explication that may have been adduced at a trial. But this was the method chosen by the General Assembly when enacting the MMA,” he continued. “Perhaps in an effort to balance this sweeping reform, the legislature chose to provide plaintiffs with the benefit of final and established liability when the healthcare provider chooses to settle. It is not our place to upset that balance.”

The justices found that Atterholt v. Herbst, 902 N.E.2d 220 (Ind. 2009), is not applicable in the instant case, as the PCF argued. They also held the PCF is correct that it may present evidence regarding compensability of a claim when that issue is in dispute, but compensability is not disputed in the instant case.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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