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Supreme Court reverses summary judgment in malpractice case

April 28, 2016

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed summary judgment for a hospital and doctor after it found the doctor’s own evidence creates issues of material fact that need to be settled at trial.

Geraldine Siner, 83, was admitted to Kindred Hospital in October 2007 for treatment of aspiration pneumonia. The family asked her to be “full code” or use whatever means necessary to save her life, but the medical staff at Kindred and Dr. Mohammed Majid thought Siner’s condition was unlikely to improve and that the family had “unrealistic expectations and strong religious beliefs.” The ethics committee overturned the “full code” designation and changed it to “no code.”

When the family was told there would be a “no code” designation, they switched hospitals to Methodist. Siner required immediate treatment for a collapsed lung and was suffering from wounds on her cheeks, overwhelming infection and septic shock. She died 20 days later.

Kathy Siner filed a medical malpractice complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance. A review panel found although Kindred contributed to Geraldine Siner’s poor health condition, it did not contribute to her death. Kathy Siner then filed a pro se medical malpractice suit against Majid and Kindred. The trial court granted summary judgment to both cases separately, and the COA affirmed summary judgment for Majid and against Kindred.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote the decision. Majid and Kindred claim that an affidavit by a member of the panel from the Indiana Department of Insurance said there was no error in Geraldine Siner’s pulmonary care. And while there was no error in her pulmonary care, the affidavit did not cover all of the Siners’ claims regarding her care, including claims that the hospital damaged her nervous system and respiratory system. That already means there is a genuine issue of material fact, which precludes summary judgment.

Kindred and Majid also said the review panel’s decision that their care may have resulted in damages, but not the death of the patient, means they are not responsible. However, this opinion goes against the panel doctor’s affidavit.

The COA said the medical review panel’s opinion is too speculative to create a genuine issue of fact, but the COA relied on cases where testimony is insufficient to support a verdict, which is not necessary in summary judgment. There only needs to be evidence that creates an issue of material fact, and this case has that evidence.

The case is Kathy L. Siner, Personal Representative of the Estate of Geraldine A. Siner, Et al v. Kindred Hospital of Indianapolis et al; Mohammed a Majid M.D., Dennis Nicely, David Uhrin, 49S05-1604-CT-219.


 

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