The Indiana Supreme Court will hear oral arguments this month in a case involving a patient who had surgery and was later informed that one of the hospital’s technicians didn’t complete the sterilization process for surgical instruments.
The case, Linda Gierek and Stephen Gierek, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, et al. v. Anonymous 1, et al., 23S-CT-277, will be heard at 9 a.m. Nov. 29 in the Supreme Court Courtroom on the third floor of the Indiana Statehouse.
Linda Gierek was one of more than 1,000 patients who had a surgical procedure at an unspecified hospital and who were later informed that one of the hospital’s technicians didn’t complete a step in sterilizing surgical instruments.
Gierek and her husband filed a class-action complaint with the Elkhart Superior Court and a proposed class-action complaint with the commissioner of the Indiana Department of Insurance, asserting claims against the hospital for negligent infliction of emotional distress, negligence and, in the alternative, medical malpractice.
The Giereks also filed motions requesting the certification of two classes: one for the hospital’s patients and another for patients’ spouses.
Additional plaintiffs were permitted to intervene in the action, which was consolidated with a later-filed class-action brought by Cheyanne Bennett, who filed her own motion for class certification.
The Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund intervened and filed a motion for partial summary judgment, asserting the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act doesn’t apply to the plaintiffs’ claims. The plaintiffs filed statements in support of the PCF’s motion.
The hospital filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment, asserting the MMA does apply.
The trial court denied the PCF’s motion for partial summary judgment and granted the hospital’s cross-motion for partial summary judgment, ruling the MMA applies to the plaintiffs’ claims.
But the trial court also denied the plaintiffs’ motions for class certification, ruling it did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant them as a preliminary determination under the MMA.
In June, the Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part.
The appellate court found that the trial court didn’t err in concluding the MMA applies to their claims. But the COA agreed that the trial court erred in its conclusion that it didn’t have subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the motions to certify a class.
The issue was remanded for full consideration of the plaintiffs’ motions for class certification.
In their petition to transfer, defendants Anonymous 1, Anonymous 2 and Anonymous 3 argued the Court of Appeals had violated well-established rules of statutory construction.
“The Supreme Court’s holding in Griffith v. Jones (602 N.E.2d 107 (Ind. 1992)) could not be more clear. This Court explicitly held that the MMA limits a trial court’s jurisdiction ‘to deciding issues of law or fact that may be preliminarily determined under Trial Rule 12(D), and compelling discovery pursuant to Trial Rules 26 through 37, inclusively,’” the petition stated.
The petition further argued that under Griffith and Indiana Code § 34-18-11-1, the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to rule on the Giereks’ Rule 23 motion for class certification.
The Indiana Supreme Court granted transfer in October.
The arguments will be livestreamed.