In its decision dated February 22, 2017, the Court of Appeals of Indiana (“Appellate Court”) addressed the sufficiency of the medical malpractice plaintiffs’ submission to a medical review panel that involved a birth injury claim (i.e., that the defendant health care providers waited too long to perform a Cesarean section delivery of the plaintiffs’ baby, thereby resulting in injury to the newborn).
With limited exceptions, a medical malpractice plaintiff in Indiana cannot take his case to court until he has submitted a proposed complaint to the Indiana Department of Insurance and received an opinion from a panel of doctors (a “medical review panel”). Once the medical malpractice plaintiff has made it through the panel process and into court, however, the plaintiff can present any theory of malpractice that (1) was encompassed by the proposed complaint that was before the panel and (2) is related to evidence that was submitted to the panel.
In the case before the Appellate Court, the plaintiffs filed a proposed complaint against the defendant health care provider and several of its physicians after their daughter was born by emergency C-section that resulted in various health problems. The Indiana medical review panel issued an opinion in favor of the defendants, and the plaintiffs thereafter filed their Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit in court, where their specific theory of malpractice was that the defendants waited too long to perform the Cesarean section. The parties agreed that this theory fell within the broad allegations in the plaintiffs’ proposed complaint but disputed whether there was evidence relating to the theory submitted to the medical review panel.
The Indiana medical malpractice plaintiffs did not submit the non-stress test and fetal-heart-rate tracings themselves to the medical review panel, and the panel did not ask the parties to submit them. The plaintiffs did not argue before the panel that the defendants waited too long to perform the Cesarean-section. The plaintiffs’ proposed medical malpractice complaint, and their complaint filed in court, alleged that the defendants “failed to adequately monitor Laura’s pregnancy and C.S.’s condition” in light of risks associated with the pregnancy.
The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendants, finding that the plaintiffs did not claim that the defendants breached the duty of care in their timing of the Cesarean section delivery nor did they provide any information to the panel that could have supported such a claim.
The Appellate Court stated that there is no question that the non-stress test and fetal-heart-rate tracings are highly relevant to the plaintiffs’ delayed-c-section theory, however, it is equally clear that the medical review panel had before it other significant evidence that supports the theory, including records specifically addressing the non-stress test and the fetal-heart-rate monitoring.
The Appellate Court held that it cannot agree with the defendants’ assertion that without the non-stress test and the fetal-heart-rate tracings the medical review panel did not have the opportunity to evaluate the timeliness of the baby’s delivery: the evidence that the panel did have put it on notice not only that the non-stress-test and the fetal-heart-rate monitoring had been conducted but also that the results of both were abnormal and that there were tracings associated with each. To the extent that the panel was incapable of fully evaluating the timeliness of the c-section without the tracings themselves, the panel had a right to request them.
The Appellate Court held that because evidence relating to the delayed-c-section theory was submitted to the medical review panel, and because the proposed complaint encompassed that theory, the plaintiffs are entitled to present it in court. Therefore, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendants.
Source C.S., a minor child v. Aegis Women’s Healthcare, P.C., Court of Appeals Case No. 53A01-1607-CT-1657.
If your baby suffered a birth injury during labor and/or delivery in Indiana or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a birth injury lawyer in Indiana or in your state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury case, if appropriate.
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