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Trial court correctly determined physician had no duty to patient

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The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court that summary judgment is appropriate for a physician being sued for medical malpractice because there was no physician-patient relationship.

Ruth Giles, 57, went to the hospital in August 2010 to have an outpatient closed nasal reduction surgery. She had fallen and broken her nose two weeks prior to the surgery. The surgery had no major complications, but afterward, Giles had continued low blood pressure and chest pain. The surgeon contacted the on-call hospitalist to take a look at Giles.

The hospitalist visited with Giles, but once he checked her chart and saw her family doctor had not authorized the hospitalist or his group to treat his patients, the hospitalist told Giles he couldn’t treat her because she was not a hospitalist patient. The family doctor preferred to continue care of his patients while in the hospital.

Giles was eventually admitted to the hospital, where her condition deteriorated after testing positive for influenza. She died three days after the surgery, with her cause of death listed as cardiopulmonary arrest due to respiratory failure and pneumonia.

Giles’ husband sued, on behalf of himself and her estate, the physicians, hospital, and other medical entities involved in Giles’ care. None of the defendants are identified in the court opinion because James Giles also filed a proposed medical malpractice complaint with the Department of Insurance at the same time he filed his court action. Indiana law allows this practice as long as defendants cannot be identified.

The trial court ruled in favor of the hospitalist and the medical corporation he worked for, finding the hospitalist did not have a physician-patient relationship with Giles and therefore owed no duty to her.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, pointing to caselaw that clearly explains that a physician who does not treat a patient or perform some affirmative act regarding the patient has no doctor-patient relationship and thus owes no duty to that patient.

It’s undisputed that the hospitalist did not render any care to Giles, the judges held, noting that the physician did not submit a billing charge for Giles and informed the surgeon and Giles that her family doctor did not give him permission to treat her.

The case is James Giles, Individually and as Executor of the Estate of Ruth Giles, deceased v. Anonymous Physician I, Anonymous Corporation I, Anonymous Hospital I, Anonymous Physician II, et al., 03A01-1306-CT-257.
 

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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