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Portion of malpractice statute of limitations ruled unconstitutional in some cases

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A woman’s malpractice lawsuit against the estate of a Marshall County doctor who died more than two decades ago will go forward, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The court found the two-year statute of limitations on medical malpractice claims unconstitutional in certain cases.

Stacy Kaufman filed a proposed medical malpractice claim against the estate of anonymous physician Dr. K in 2009, 35 years after Dr. K delivered her. The doctor ordered a blood test for phenylketonuria (PKU), and although the blood test revealed that Stacy had PKU, Dr. K. never communicated the result to Kaufman’s parents, according to court records.

Indiana Code 34-18-7-1(b) “violates Article 1, Section 23 and Article 1, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution in cases where a plaintiff, within the two-year period, does not know, or in the exercise of reasonable diligence could not have discovered, that he or she had sustained an injury as a result of malpractice,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote in a unanimous opinion.

Kaufman didn’t discover that she he PKU – a condition in which a person cannot break down a certain amino acid which can lead to a toxic buildup in the body. It can cause severe malformation and mental retardation in children.

Kaufman gave birth to C.K. in November 2005. C.K. was born with microcephaly – a small head –  and dysmorphic facial features. It wasn’t until 2007 that a neurologist diagnosed C.K. as having PKU. Kaufman’s mother, Mary, in September 2007 obtained Stacy’s birth records, and discovered the test confirming PKU that had not been communicated.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling of Marshal Circuit Judge Curtis Palmer, who declined to grant the estate’s request for summary judgment on the statute of limitations. Palmer found an issue of fact as to when the diagnosis was discovered and properly denied summary judgment for the estate.

“We are, of course, fully cognizant that we are permitting a nearly four-decade old claim of malpractice to proceed at this time. Nonetheless, it is not unheard of in our jurisprudence to permit lawsuits based upon decades-old acts of negligence to proceed, under very limited circumstances. See, e.g., Jurich v. Garlock, Inc., 785 N.E.2d 1093, 1095 (Ind. 2003),” Barnes wrote.

Meanwhile, the court declined to reverse Palmer’s ruling that Dr. K did not owe a duty to Kaufman’s child, C.K.

“Recognizing duty in a case such as this could extend a physician’s potential liability for several decades after an alleged negligent act. This would contravene the Act’s purpose of placing reasonable limits upon a physician’s exposure to malpractice claims. Additionally, there is no doubt a strong public policy in favor of ensuring that infants are properly tested for PKU and that any such test results be expeditiously conveyed to the infant’s parents. However, the original patient him- or herself is directly harmed and sustains injury if a positive PKU test result is not conveyed and the patient may state a claim for malpractice against the doctor,” Barnes wrote.

“We acknowledge some tension between our holding on this issue and on the statute of limitations issue, particularly with respect to our concerns regarding the time period between the alleged original negligence and the filing of this lawsuit. Nevertheless, the two issues are governed by different legal standards and, as such, has led to two different results.”


 

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  • MALPRACTICE
    My brother and his friend received bad blood transfusions at different times from the same major hospital in Ohio about 30 years ago, and just recently discovered the transfusion was a result of their Cirrhosis of the Liver. 1. Can Ohio’s Statue of Limitation be challenged to be held unconstitutional, as in the opinion in Houser v. Kaufman and Hardy v. VerMeulen? 2. Can a malpractice case be brought under Medical negligence liability under the consumer protection act citing, it is unconstitutional to time bar this matter.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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