COA: Med-mal dismissal affirmed for counsel’s untimely filings

A woman who partially blamed her attorney’s personal problems for her failure to timely file pleadings in her proposed medical malpractice complaints could not convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that her case should not be dismissed. Among other things, the appellate panel simply found she failed to spend her time wisely.

Two days after Patricia Cook was admitted to an anonymous hospital and treated by anonymous physicians in November 2014, she died.

Two years later, Rosemary Quillen, as Cook’s personal representative, filed a proposed complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance alleging that Cook’s death was the result of medical malpractice committed by the hospital and three physicians who treated her.

A schedule for submission of evidence was eventually set for both parties, but even with an extension granted after the hospital and physicians agreed, Quillen twice failed to meet her respective submission deadline. The providers eventually moved for preliminary determination and to dismiss the proposed complaint.

By the time Quillen tendered her submission and responded to the motions to dismiss, more than three months had passed from her original deadline. She argued that even if the schedule was permissible, she had shown good cause for her failure to comply because her counsel’s attention had been occupied by family matters at some point during the case.

She also asserted that the panel chair exceeded his authority under the Medical Malpractice Act when he directed the parties to submit materials to himself. Quillen argued the schedule amounted to a directive compelling the exchange of discovery, which she claimed is not one of the powers given to the panel chair by the MMA and she therefore could not be sanctioned for failing to comply with it.

However, the Porter Superior Court ultimately granted the motions to dismiss during a September 2018 hearing, which Quillen unsuccessfully appealed as an error to the Indiana Court of Appeals in Rosemary Quillen, as Personal Representative of Patricia Cook, Deceased v. Anonymous Hospital and Anonymous Physicians A, B, and C, 18A-CT-2743.

The appellate panel found no merit with either of her assertions, first finding that the schedule created by the panel chair was eminently reasonable and efficient. It further denied her argument that she should not have had to submit her materials before the hospital or physicians, finding that she had extensive time available to submit her materials.

“At no point during any of this time did Quillen object, raise a concern, or suggest that her attorney had pressing family matters rendering compliance impossible. Instead, she was silent and took no action until the other parties moved to dismiss her proposed complaint,” Judge John Baker wrote for the unanimous panel. “Quillen had a great deal of time to assemble her materials, but she failed to do so and failed to object on any grounds. Under these circumstances, we can only find that she is not entitled to relief.”

The panel further found that she offered no specific details as to why her counsel was unable to communicate with the parties regarding the personal situation, and that meeting the MMA timeline was of “extreme importance.”

Thus, the appellate panel concluded Quillen failed to show good cause for her untimeliness and that dismissal was the appropriate sanction.

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