Alleged alteration of medical records requires second review panel, COA rules

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A man whose medical records were allegedly altered by practitioners cannot independently pursue a suit over that alteration without first proceeding through a separate medical review panel, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday.

Santos Cortez filed a proposed medical malpractice lawsuit against IU Health in 2014 related to physical therapy for workplace pressure wounds for which he was treated at the IU Health Wound Clinic. The case eventually settled, but plaintiffs discovered Santos’ medical records that had been provided to an entity involved in his worker’s compensation claim did not match those provided to his med-mal counsel. The latter records included handwritten notes regarding his care from attending physical therapists.

That discovery led to this case alleging fraud, criminal counterfeiting, forgery, perjury and other causes, Santos Cortez, Fran Cortez, and Norris Choplin Schroeder LLP v. Indiana University Health Inc., Sharon V. Lucich, and Elizabeth Longmuir, 19A-CT-2540.

While plaintiffs argued the claims were so egregious that they should fall beyond the Medical Malpractice Act’s medical review panel requirement, the Marion Superior Court disagreed and dismissed the complaint. The Court of Appeals affirmed, citing Howard Reg’l Health Sys. v. Gordon, 952 N.E.2d 182 (Ind. 2011).

“Based upon the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in Gordon, we conclude that the maintenance of health care records in this case including their alteration prior to the filing of the proposed complaint alleging malpractice against IU Health fall within the scope of the MMA,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the panel. “Plaintiffs did not submit these claims to a medical review panel. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss.”

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