Medical malpractice complaint moves forward

A man will have his medical malpractice complaint heard after the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s decision to dismiss it.

Willie Gauldin filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in July 2012 and was discharged in November of the same year. In 2014, he filed a proposed complaint for medical malpractice. The medical providers he was suing filed motions for preliminary determination because the claim had not been listed as a possible asset in the bankruptcy.

Richard Lorenz, trustee of Gauldin’s bankruptcy estate, was granted a motion for relief from judgment in the bankruptcy court. He then sent an amended proposed medical malpractice complaint naming Lorenz as the party of interest, and moved the trial court to name him as such. The trial court granted the medical providers’ preliminary determination motion, ordering the complaint dismissed.

Lorenz appealed on two issues, asking whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction, and if so, whether the court erred in dismissing the proposed complaint.

The Court of Appeals said the trial court should have let Lorenz be substituted as the party in interest for Gauldin. Gauldin had standing to sue because he suffered direct injury as the result of the conduct. But because he filed bankruptcy, the party at interest was the bankruptcy estate, represented by Lorenz.

The medical providers also argued that the case should be judicially estopped from going forward, but the Court of Appeals thought otherwise on that issue as well. It said the appeals court will defer to the bankruptcy court’s decisions on most issues, and since the bankruptcy court allowed the bankruptcy to be reopened, there was no reason to stop it. There is also no proof that all creditors were not apprised of the reopening of the bankruptcy, even though only one creditor reapplied.

The Court of Appeals found the trial court did have subject matter jurisdiction. The motion for preliminary determination was filed in Greene Superior Court, and Indiana code says all standard superior courts have original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases.

The case is Richard W. Lorenz and any Successor Trustee, as Trustee, of the Bankruptcy Estate of Willie R. Gauldin v.Anonymous Physician #1, et al., 28A01-1501-CT-50.
 

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