In its opinion filed on July 20, 2020, the Court of Appeals of Indiana (“Indiana Appellate Court”) held: “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 [Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act]. Plaintiffs did not submit these claims to a medical review panel. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s grant of Defendants’ motion to dismiss.”
On April 16, 2019, the plaintiffs filed a complaint against the defendants, alleging that in 2012, one of the plaintiffs was referred to IU Health’s Wound Clinic at Methodist Hospital for treatment for pressure wounds. He received therapy from various physical therapists employed at IU Health’s Wound Clinic, including Lucich and Longmuir, on August 8, 16, 20, 23, 27, 29, and 31, 2012. The plaintiffs alleged that sometime between August 29, 2012 and December 2013, Lucich and/or Longmuir altered certain medical records reflecting the care and treatment that the plaintiff received at the Wound Clinic in August 2012.
The plaintiffs argued that in contrast to the mere maintenance of medical records, the fraudulent alteration of records and facilitation of perjury have nothing to do with ‘curative or salutary conduct’ or the ‘exercise of professional expertise, skill, or judgment’ and are, instead, actions decidedly unrelated to healthcare, the MMA is not applicable, and the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction over their claims. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ claims fall within the purview of the MMA and they consequently must bring their claims before the medical review panel and the trial court lacks subject matter jurisdiction until that condition precedent has been satisfied, because the alleged acts all stem from the maintenance of the medical records which the Indiana Supreme Court has declared falls within the definition of malpractice.
The Indiana Appellate Court stated that regardless of what label a plaintiff uses, claims that boil down to a question of whether a given course of treatment was medically proper and within the appropriate standard are the quintessence of a malpractice case. By contrast, to fall outside the Medical Malpractice Act, a health care provider’s actions must be demonstrably unrelated to the promotion of the plaintiff’s health or an exercise of the provider’s professional expertise, skill, or judgment.
The Indiana Appellate Court noted that the Indiana Supreme Court, in a prior spoliation of evidence case, held that the defendant hospital was entitled to summary judgment on the claim of spoliation because the Indiana Supreme Court declined to recognize the count as representing a separate cause of action. The Indiana Appellate Court therefore held: “Based upon the Indiana Supreme Court’s opinion in [that case], 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.”
Source Cortez v. Indiana University Health, Inc., Opinion 19A-CT-2540.
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