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Medical Malpractice Act does not apply to third party, COA rules

December 16, 2014

A worker injured on the job by the actions of a co-worker who was taking prescribed narcotic pain killers is not subject to the limitations of Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act.

Crystal West sustained serious and permanent injuries after the cherry-picker truck she was working in was hit by a forklift driven by her co-worker. The co-worker was taking medication for a shoulder injury and claimed he was never told not to drive or operate heavy machinery.

Crystal and her husband, William, subsequently filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against Preferred Professional Insurance Co., Hills Insurance Co., the Indiana Department of Insurance and the Patient’s Compensation Fund. The couple argued that the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act does not apply to their claims of negligence.

The Marion Superior Court agreed and the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in Preferred Professional Ins. Co., and Hills Ins. Co., Inc. v. Crystal West, William West, and Ind. Dept. of Ins., Patient’s Comp. Fund, 49A02-1403-CT-163.  

The insurance providers asserted that the Wests’ allegations were “classic malpractice claims” because they were based on the professional services and actions of the healthcare providers.

However, the Court of Appeals rejected this argument, citing the language of the statute and the need for the judicial branch to construe the words with regard for legislative intent.

“We find that if we were to read the ‘or otherwise’ language of the statute to expand the definition or ‘patient’ to include anyone injured as result of acts by anyone providing health care, it would effectively render the rest of the statute’s language of defining ‘patient’ meaningless and without purpose,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. “We do not believe the MMA was intended to cover claims by third parties having absolutely no relationship to the doctor or medical provider.”

 

 

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