Fort Wayne Indiana Personal Injury Lawyer and Attorney Blog

Estate must sue psychiatric center under Med-Mal Act

By Jack H. FarnbauchJanuary 21, 2020

An altercation that occurred at a psychiatric hospital between a patient and a resident assistant has resulted in The Indiana Court of Appeals affirming a prior ruling that a wrongful death claim brought by the patient’s estate is subject to the Medical Malpractice Act, even when there is a factual dispute. 

The Estate of Roy Martinez sued the Oaklawn Psychiatric Center after Martinez died from injuries sustained in an altercation with Kennedy Kafatia, a resident assistant. The altercation began when Martinez defied Kafatia’s order to go to bed, and Kafatia kicked him in the shin. Martinez suffered a leg injury, and the laceration led to his death.

The estate brought its case under the Wrongful Death Act, but the St. Joseph Superior Court granted Oaklawn’s motion to dismiss, finding the claims should have been raised under the Medical Malpractice Act. After hearing oral arguments in June, the Court unanimously upheld the dismissal in July.

There was one large factual dispute throughout this case, which is, who was the aggressor?  When the altercation occurred that injured Martinez, Kafatia was naturally responding to Martinez’s physically aggressive behavior by defending himself,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in the court’s original opinion. “Kafatia thereafter followed Oaklawn’s protocol by removing himself from Martinez’s immediate physical presence and waiting for law enforcement to assist with Martinez.

“These facts and circumstances, together with the broadened scope of employment set forth in (Cox v.  Evansville Police Department, et al., 107 N.E.3d 453 (Ind. 2018)), place the incident and injuries squarely within the scope of the Medical Malpractice Act,” Mathias wrote.

Read more about the psychiatric hospital altercation.