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Trial court errs in granting motion regarding doctors’ contract dispute

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has found that a cardiologist’s breach of contract complaint may have been “unartfully drafted,” but it still adequately stated a claim for tortious interference with a contract.

In Bertram A. Graves, M.D., v. Richard Kovacs, M.D., Edward Ross, M.D. and Indiana University Health f/k/a Clarian Health Partners, Inc., 49A05-1301-PL-1, the appeals court reversed and remanded a trial court’s granting of the motion for judgment on the pleadings filed by Dr. Richard Kovacs and Dr. Edward Ross.

On March 7, 2012, Dr. Bertram A. Graves filed a second amended complaint against Clarian/IU Health. In this document Kovacs and Ross were named as defendants for the first time. Under the caption “Breach of Contract,” Graves alleged his cardiology privileges were revoked, in part, because Kovacs and Ross provided false information to peer review committees.

After Kovacs and Ross filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings because they were not party to any contract, Graves asserted the facts of the second amended complaint sufficiently stated a cause of action against the doctors for tortious interference with a contract.   

On Nov. 5, 2012, Kovacs and Ross argued that any claim for tortious interference with a contract was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. The trial court granted the motion of judgment on the pleadings that same day but its order only mentioned Graves’s alleged failure to state a claim and not the statute of limitations argument.

On Dec. 6, 2012, the trial court denied Graves’s motion to amend his complaint to more clearly state a claim against Kovacs and Ross.

The COA found Kovacs and Ross were painting with too broad a brush when they argue the only count of the complaint that mentioned them was captioned “Breach of Contract” and they had no contract with Graves.

Although Graves’s complaint may have been unartfully pleaded, the appellate court held it sufficiently put Kovacs and Ross on notice that they were alleged to have acted wrongfully and intentionally.

The appeals court declined to offer an opinion on the merits of the statute of limitations argument because it determined Graves was not given adequate opportunity before the trial court to address the issue.

“As a general rule, a plaintiff does not have to anticipate a statute of limitations defense in his or her complaint and should be given adequate opportunity to provide facts and argument in response to the raising of a statute of limitations defense,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote.
 

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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