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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. 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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