COA rules statute of limitations, contradictory testimony supports summary judgment entry

A time-barred complaint and contradictory statements made by a woman who claimed her privacy was violated during her knee-replacement surgery led the Indiana Court of appeals to affirm summary judgment for six defendants in a medical invasion of privacy case.

Shortly before going under anesthesia for a knee-replacement surgery in February 2014, Kathy Dotson observed two non-medical personnel in her operating room along with the performing surgeon, Dr. Sheedy, and other Woodlawn Hospital medical personnel. Dotson identified from their dress that Brad Bolinger and Patrick Reagan were product representatives for Stryker Corporation who were there to discuss knee-replacement products with Sheedy. Their presence made Dotson uncomfortable, but before she could object she went under anesthesia.  

More than two years later, Dotson filed suit against Stryker, Bolinger, Reagan, Sheedy, Rochester Orthopedics and Woodlawn, alleging the defendants had committed invasion of privacy when Bolinger and Reagan had been permitted in the operating room. She also claimed to have first learned about Bolinger and Regan’s presence in the room after Woodlawn mailed copies of her medical records to her counsel on or after Oct. 21, 2014.

Sheedy and Rochester moved for summary judgment, designating a signed form that showed Dotson authorized product representatives, among others, to be in the OR. Dotson herself then testified in a deposition that she already knew Bolinger and Regan were in the room at the time of her surgery, but did not believe she had given consent to their presence. Dotson then admitted she had signed the authorization form of consent to have them in the room, but did so only after her knee-replacement surgery had already occurred.

All six defendants eventually filed for summary judgment, and while their motions were pending Dotson moved for an enlargement of time which to read and sign her deposition transcript. The Fulton Circuit Court ultimately granted summary judgment to each defendant on the grounds that Dotson’s complaint was filed too late.

On appeal, Dotson argued the trial court abused its discretion when it considered her designated deposition because she had not yet read and signed the deposition transcript when the defendants designated it in support of their respective motions for summary judgment.  But citing to Drummond v. State, 467 N.E.2d 742, 746 (Ind. 1984), the appellate panel noted that in light of the language of trial rules, “the lack of signature” is not necessarily “an impediment to admission” of a deposition.

The panel also found that although trial rules require the witness be permitted to review the transcript of their deposition and then sign it, the rules nonetheless “provide for the use of a deposition at trial even though it is unsigned.” Ultimately, the court determined that Dotson had not demonstrated that the trial court’s reliance on the designated deposition was so unreasonable as to constitute an abuse of the court’s discretion.

Dotson also argued her complaint created a genuine issue of material fact because it stated she did not know that Bolinger and Reagan were present in the operating room until Oct. 21, 2014, one day shy of two years before she filed her complaint. But the appellate court found her complaint was barred by the two-year statutory limit because the operation occurred on Feb. 25, 2014, and she waited until Oct. 20, 2016 to file. It also found assertions made in Dotson’s complaint to contradict previous testimony given in April and June 2017.   

The case is Kathy Dotson v. Stryker Corporation, Brad Bolinger, Patrick Reagan, Jeffrey M. Sheedy, M.D., Rochester Orthopedics, P.C., and Woodlawn Hospital, 18A-PL-220.

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