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Indiana Court of Appeals Revives Suit Over Fatally Negligent Post-Operative Care

By Jack H. FarnbauchApril 19, 2017

Darlene Welsh, 82, received open heart surgery on May 2, 2011 at the Indiana Heart Hospital. Once the repair and bypass were completed, the surgeon, Dr. John Storey (“Storey”), placed a single pacing wire in Welsh’s chest. Pacing wires connect the heart to an artificial pacemaker and may be placed temporarily in the chests of postoperative open heart surgery patients to help regulate heart rhythms and blood flow until the heart can function normally on its own. Four days after the surgery, a nurse practitioner, Lindsay Cool, was asked to remove the pacing wire. The pacing wire was removed but then about 10 minutes later, Mrs. Welsh felt ill and lost consciousness. Hospital staff tried to revive Mrs. Welsh but she could not be saved. She died shortly thereafter.

Welsh’s daughter, Ms. Ford, brought suit against the hospital, the doctor who performed the open heart surgery and the nurse practitioner who removed the pacing wire. Ms. Ford first filed her proposed complaint with a medical review panel. The panel issued its opinion shortly thereafter that Defendants did not fail to meet the applicable standard of care as charged. Ford filed her complaint in Marion Superior Court anyway, naming only the Indiana Heart Hospital as a defendant.

On January 8, 2016, the Hospital moved for summary judgment, relying on the medical review panel decision that the Hospital had not breached the standard of care. Ford countered by hiring Amanda Dillow as an expert to review the medical records. Dillow went over Welsh’s medical records and found what she believed to be breaches in care. The trial court heard arguments on the summary judgment issue and ruled in favor of the Hospital without any written declaration. Ford then appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals ruled in in favor of the Indiana Heart Hospital. Because Amanda Dillow’s affidavit sufficiently stated that the hospital breached the standard of care in Welsh’s case, it created a genuine issue of material fact as to duty and breach. The Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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