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Court of Appeals Rules that there is Difference between Medical Malpractice and Medical Negligence

By Jack H. FarnbauchMarch 23, 2019

In November 2012, Mindy Speaks was diagnosed with a very rapid heartbeat by Porter Hospital emergency physician Vishnuvardhan Rao. While in the emergency room, Rao ordered several doses of medication to slow Speaks’ heartbeat. When she was later transported from the ER to the hospital, Speaks was given an IV and diagnosed by Keith Atassi with proximal tachycardia, tobacco use disorder, and a family history of blood disorder, among other things.

The next day, as a nurse removed Speaks’ IV in preparation for her release, the nurse noticed a long stringy clot that had attached itself to the catheter being withdrawn. Speaks returned to the ER five days later complaining of redness and swelling where her IV had been, and doctors ultimately concluded she had a blood clot at the IV site.

Speaks then filed a complaint with the Indiana Department of Insurance alleging Rao, Atassi, Porter Hospital, Unity Physicians and Indiana Physician Services were negligent during her evaluation and treatment during her stay. Speaks ended up adding another 2 amended complaints too, for a total of 3 complaints. 

A trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants on the issue of medical malpractice in October 2017. However, it interpreted Speaks’ third amended complaint to have asserted new claims of medical negligence that were independent of her claims for medical malpractice, and thus did not have to be supported by expert testimony regarding the standard of care and could proceed as claims of ordinary negligence.

On appeal at the Indiana Court of Appeals, Speaks contested the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the medical malpractice claim and the defendants cross-appealed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment on the issue of medical negligence. The appellate court found that the defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the issues of medical malpractice and negligence on the basis that the trial court erred in denying their motion by sua sponte creating a distinction between Speaks’ claims of “medical negligence” and “medical malpractice.”

The appellate court ruled that there is no distinction between medical malpractice and medical negligence and both of these claims fall under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (MMA). However, the MMA is not all-inclusive as to claims against medical providers, and a claim against a medical provider sounding in ordinary negligence or premises liability rather than medical malpractice falls outside the procedural and substantive provisions of the MMA. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for the entry of summary judgment on Speaks’ negligence claims in favor of the defendants

You can read more here.