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COA: Declaratory judgment wrongly denied in malpractice case

July 8, 2015

A trial court wrongly denied a plaintiff’s motion for a declaratory judgment arising from an inability to select a panelist to review a malpractice dispute on behalf of a woman who died after a stroke. The woman died while in the care of an unidentified medical facility.

The Indiana Court of Appeals noted the lengthy and contentious nature of litigation in Virginia Tramill, Miah Gant, Marquel Cheaney and Jeremiah Tramill, the Mother and Children of Sara Tramill, Deceased v. Anonymous Healthcare Provider, 49A02-1408-CT-528.

“To say that the parties have filed repetitive motions regarding the selection of the third panelist is an understatement,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the appeals court. “Notwithstanding these motions, composition of the medical review panel remains unresolved more than four years after the filing of the proposed complaint.

Medical review panels consist of three doctors who determine whether practitioners in a proposed malpractice case acted within appropriate standards of care before suits may proceed to trial. The panels are chaired by a non-voting attorney member, who in this case appointed a third member when the two doctors on the panel did not agree on a third after an original panelist could no longer serve.

“Accordingly, because declaratory relief is appropriate, if not necessary, to resolve the parties’ dispute regarding the selection of the third panelist … the trial court should have granted the Appellants’ motion,” Barnes wrote.

The facility challenged multiple trial court rulings, but Barnes wrote that the panel lacked jurisdiction to consider those matters because they were not final judgments from the trial court.
 

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