The Court of Appeals of Indiana (“Indiana Appellate Court”) stated in its July 8, 2021 opinion, “we are asked to determine whether a medical malpractice plaintiff’s proposed complaint encompassed a particular theory of negligence, such that the plaintiff can be said to have presented the theory to a medical review panel before filing suit, as required by Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act. We find the theory was not encompassed by the plaintiff’s proposed complaint, and therefore, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter partial summary judgment on that portion of the plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim. Accordingly, we vacate the court’s entry of partial summary judgment and remand for partial dismissal without prejudice.”
The Underlying Facts
Paul A. Holsten (Paul) passed away the day after receiving health care at two facilities operated by Cameron Memorial Community Hospital, Inc. (Cameron Hospital)—an urgent care center and a hospital emergency room. Pursuant to Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, Linda G. Holsten (Linda), individually and as Paul’s surviving spouse, filed a proposed complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance, asserting negligence claims against Cameron Hospital and urgent care physician Lynn Faur, M.D.
A medical review panel (MRP) was selected and provided with medical records from Paul’s care at both the urgent care center and the hospital emergency room. After reviewing the parties’ evidentiary submissions, the MRP issued a written report expressing the following unanimous opinion as to Cameron Hospital: 1. The evidence supports the conclusion that said Defendant failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care as charged in the Complaint. 2. The panelists are unable to determine if the conduct complained of was a factor of the resultant death.
Linda’s Indiana medical malpractice attorney subsequently met with the MRP to discuss its opinion. During this meeting, panelist Adam Will, M.D. advised that, in addition to Dr. Faur’s acts and omissions at the urgent care center, the physicians who treated Paul at the emergency room failed to follow the hospital’s sepsis protocol. According to Dr. Will, this delayed the administration of certain antibiotic treatments and may have played a role in Paul’s death.
Linda timely filed a formal complaint against Cameron Hospital and Dr. Faur in the Steuben Circuit Court. The complaint’s pertinent allegations were identical to those asserted in the proposed complaint except the steroid theory of negligence was replaced with the allegation that “hospital sepsis protocols were not followed further delaying the administration of the necessary antibiotic therapy for Mr. Holsten’s severe pneumonia.”
The Indiana Appellate Court held: “the MRP “has the sole duty to express the panel’s expert opinion as to whether or not the evidence supports the conclusion that the defendant or defendants acted or failed to act within the appropriate standards of care as charged in the complaint.” Ind. Code § 34-18-10-22(a) (emphasis added). The sepsis theory was not encompassed by the allegations of Linda’s proposed complaint and, therefore, was not presented to the MRP. Accordingly, the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate that portion of Linda’s medical malpractice claim … We therefore vacate the court’s entry of partial summary judgment and remand, instructing the trial court to dismiss, without prejudice, the sepsis theory portion of Linda’s claim.”
Source Holsten v. Faur, No. 20A-CT-2072.
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