ILNews

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. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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