In its decision filed on May 26, 2015, the Court of Appeals of Indiana affirmed the trial court’s granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant health care providers in a medical malpractice wrongful death case filed on behalf of an Indiana prison inmate who died allegedly due to medical malpractice. The Court of Appeals of Indiana held that the inmate’s son, who filed the Indiana medical malpractice lawsuit pro se (without the assistance of an attorney), had failed to file the lawsuit within the two-year statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases in Indiana.
Indiana’s statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases is set forth in Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act (Indiana Code section 34-18-7-1(b)), which provides that a claim against a health-care professional based upon health care that was provided or should have been provided, must be filed within two years of the alleged act, omission, or neglect. Indiana’s medical malpractice statute of limitations is an occurrence-based statute of limitations: an action for medical malpractice generally must be filed within two years from the date the alleged negligent act occurred rather from the date it was discovered.
There is an exception, however: if the claimant does not discover the alleged medical malpractice and resulting injury, and does not possess the information that would lead a reasonably diligent person to such discovery during the two-year period, the occurrence-based limitation period is unconstitutional as applied. Therefore, it must be determined when the claimant possessed enough information that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have led to the discovery of the alleged medical malpractice and resulting injury. In Indiana, reasonable diligence requires a claimant to inquire into the possibility of a claim within the remaining limitations period, and to institute a claim within that period or forego it.
In the present case, the inmate died on November 4, 2010, allegedly as a result of medical negligence, but the inmate’s son did not file his medical malpractice complaint against an unnamed physician until February 21, 2014, and against an unnamed medical group until September 11, 2014, which dates were after the statute-of-limitations had expired.
The plaintiff argued that his medical malpractice filings were timely because he fell within the discovery exception to the statute of limitations, alleging that the earliest he could have discovered facts to learn of the medical malpractice and resulting injury would have been after his receipt of his father’ death certificate on September 28, 2012, which was within two years of filing his Second Amended Complaint.
The Court of Appeals of Indiana Decision
The Court of Appeals of Indiana stated that the plaintiff had received information from his brother three days after his father’s death that his father had died in the hospital after his spleen ruptured and he bled to death following colon surgery, which should have alerted him to the alleged medical malpractice and resulting injury.
Furthermore, the plaintiff waited thirteen months before contacting the hospital and requesting his father’s medical records. After the hospital told the plaintiff that his request was not on the proper form and sent him the correct one (which requested the last four digits of his father’s Social Security number), the plaintiff waited almost another year before he again attempted to obtain his father’s medical records from the hospital.
Therefore, the Court of Appeals of Indiana held that the plaintiff did not exercise reasonable diligence in pursuing his claim, and the trial court did not err in concluding that his claim was barred by the statute of limitations and in granting summary judgment in favor of the medical malpractice defendants.
Source Myers v. Anonymous Medical Group, et al., Case No. 79A05-1411-CT-525.
If you or a loved one suffered serious injuries or other harms as a result of medical malpractice that occurred in a prison, you should promptly consult with a prison malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your prison medical malpractice claim for you and represent you in a prison medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Click here to visit our website or call us toll-free in the United States at 800-295-3959 to be connected with prison malpractice attorneys in your state who may assist you.
Turn to us when you don’t know where to turn.