In its Memorandum Decision filed on November 21, 2017, the Court of Appeals of Indiana (“Indiana Appellate Court”) affirmed the trial court granting summary judgment to the Indiana medical malpractice plaintiff, finding that the affidavit of the defendant’s medical expert filed in support of the defendant’s opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment did not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the question of causation.
The Indiana medical malpractice plaintiff had first visited the defendant physician on November 14, 2011, for pain she had in her left ankle. The plaintiff continued to treat with the defendant physician until approximately October 2012, for pain in her left knee and ankle.
On July 21, 2014, the plaintiff filed her proposed medical malpractice complaint against the defendant physician with the Indiana Department of Insurance. On April 13, 2016, the medical review panel unanimously determined that the defendant physician failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care and that the defendant’s conduct was a factor in the injuries and damages of which the plaintiff complained.
The plaintiff subsequently filed her Indiana medical malpractice complaint in court, alleging that the defendant physician committed medical malpractice. The plaintiff then filed a motion for summary judgment on the issues of liability and causation. The defendant filed an affidavit from his expert in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment.
On November 4, 2016, the trial court issued an order granting the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, finding that no issues of material fact remained as to whether (1) the defendant’s treatment of the plaintiff fell below the appropriate standard of care and (2) the defendant’s actions were a cause of the plaintiff’s claimed injuries and damages. The trial court stated that the plaintiff’s medical malpractice case would proceed to trial on the issue of damages only. The trial court subsequently entered its summary judgment ruling as a final appealable order. The defendant appealed.
Indiana Appellate Court Decision
The Indiana Appellate Court stated that a unanimous opinion of the medical review panel establishing that the defendant physician failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care and that the defendant’s conduct was a factor in causing the patient’s resultant damages is ordinarily sufficient to meet the patient’s initial burden to show that there was no genuine issue of material fact. The burden then shifts to the defendant to designate sufficient expert testimony setting forth specific facts showing the existence of a genuine issue of material fact.
The Indiana Appellate Court agreed with the trial court’s determination that the defendant’s expert’s affidavit did not explicitly make any statements that would give rise to a genuine issue of material fact as to causation: the expert’s statements refer to the amount of monetary damages that should be received by the plaintiff as the expert believed that the plaintiff would have probably required arthrodesis at some point in the future regardless of the care provided by the defendant (“Damages from the care rendered by [the defendant physician] are speculative, as polyarticular arthritis, the claimed result of [the defendant’s] treatment, was already present before his index arthroscopic procedure … The records would indicate that the patient underwent a subsequent left ankle arthrodesis by the podiatrists on 01/25/13 after irrigation and debridement of this ankle and completion of parenteral antibiotic therapy … All of the notes would indicate that, even before she had her arthroscopic procedure in September 2012, that she had significant and severe degenerative arthritis that probably would require eventual arthrodesis anyway.”).
The Indiana Appellate Court held that the defendant’s expert’s affidavit did not raise a genuine issue of material fact as to the question of causation and therefore affirmed the judgment of the trial court.
Source Bell v. Barmore, Court of Appeals Case No. 22A01-1706-CT-1368.
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