Indiana Supreme Court Holds Medical Malpractice Act Does Not Apply To Indemnification Claim Between Medical Providers

Court Holds Malpractice Act Does Not Apply To Indemnification Claim: In its opinion dated March 8, 2022, the Indiana Supreme Court stated: “Today, we’re asked to extend the reach of the Medical Malpractice Act (MMA or Act) to include a claim for indemnification by one medical provider against another. We decline that invitation because indemnification sounds in contract, and because neither the text of the MMA nor precedent interpreting the Act support categorizing such a claim as one for medical malpractice. We therefore hold that a breach-of-contract claim for failure to indemnify need not follow the procedures contained within the Act.”

Underlying Facts

Between 2004 and 2011, Lake Imaging provided radiology services to patients of Franciscan Alliance. By the terms of the parties’ written Agreement, Lake Imaging agreed to “indemnify and hold [Franciscan] harmless from any liability claimed as a result of [Lake Imaging’s] negligence” in providing these services.

Joseph Shaughnessy was a patient at Franciscan in April 2011. While there, Lake Imaging interpreted two CT scans performed on Joseph. Joseph died on April 25, 2011. Just under two years later—on April 10, 2013—Joseph’s sons (the Shaughnessys) filed with the Department of Insurance (DOI) a proposed medical-malpractice complaint against Franciscan. Lake Imaging was not named in the Shaughnessys’ proposed complaint. The DOI served the proposed complaint on Franciscan on May 20, 2013. Franciscan eventually settled with the Shaughnessys on September 25, 2016. After reaching that settlement, Franciscan sought indemnity from Lake Imaging on the theory that Lake Imaging’s alleged negligence in interpreting Joseph’s CT scans led to his death.

Lake Imaging moved for summary judgment, arguing that, because Franciscan premised its claim on alleged malpractice by Lake Imaging, the MMA’s two-year statute of limitations had lapsed. Ind. Code § 34-18-7-1(b). But instead of addressing the statute-of-limitations claim, the trial court found that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Franciscan’s complaint because the MMA required Franciscan to present its claim to the DOI for an opinion from a medical-review panel before filing suit. I.C. § 34-18-8-4. The trial court therefore dismissed Franciscan’s claim for breach of contract without prejudice. The parties appealed.

Indiana Supreme Court Opinion

A “patient” under the MMA refers to “an individual who receives or should have received health care from a health care provider, under a contract, express or implied.” I.C. § 34-18-2-22. This includes an individual with “a claim of any kind, whether derivative or otherwise, as a result of alleged malpractice on the part of a health care provider.” A derivative claim includes “the claim of a parent or parents, guardian, trustee, child, relative, attorney, or any other representative of the patient including claims for loss of services, loss of consortium, expenses, and other similar claims.”

The Indiana Supreme Court stated: “Under Indiana Code section 34-18-8-1, a “patient or the representative of a patient who has a claim under this article for bodily injury or death on account of malpractice may” file a complaint after following the necessary statutory procedures. (Emphasis added). This section expressly provides that the MMA is intended to cover only claims for bodily injury or death, not claims for breach of contract … there is nothing in the MMA to suggest that it extends beyond the physician-patient relationship to encompass commercial contracts between healthcare providers … Expanding the MMA’s application to the type of indemnification claim at issue here conflicts with the purpose of curtailing liability for medical malpractice.”

Source Lake Imaging, LLC v. Franciscan Alliance, Inc., No. 21S-CT-478.

If you or a loved one were harmed as a result of medical malpractice in Indiana or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find an Indiana medical malpractice lawyer, or a medical malpractice lawyer in your state, who may investigate your malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a medical malpractice malpractice case, if appropriate.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022 at 5:22 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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