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Monday, September 12, 2011

Ind. Decisions - "Medical liability litigant can't sue separately for lost medical records"

Citing the August 10th Indiana Supreme Court decision in Howard Regional Health System, et al. v. Jacob Gordon, et al. (ILB summary here), Amy Lynn Sorrel reports today in a long story in the AMA News that begins:

An Indiana Supreme Court ruling protects physicians and hospitals from additional liability for lost medical records.

Health records maintenance is considered the practice of medicine, and plaintiffs suing for medical negligence cannot bring a separate action over the loss of the documents, the high court said in an Aug. 10 opinion. Such claims would be considered with the liability lawsuit.

The ruling was sparked by a medical negligence lawsuit Lisa Gordon filed against Howard Regional Health System in Kokomo, Ind., and two physicians after her son, Jacob, experienced neurological disorders after his emergency cesarean birth in 1999. Gordon sought separate damages against the hospital for losing certain medical records related to her son's care, alleging that the loss of evidence made it impossible for her to pursue a liability case against Jacob's obstetrician.

But the court concluded that such claims fall under the state's Medical Malpractice Act, which requires a plaintiff to first submit the merits of a case to a medical review panel before the case can go forward.

"The Gordons rightly acknowledge how important health care records are for the nature and quality of the health care provided," Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote. "Surely the skillful, accurate and ongoing maintenance of test and treatment records bears strongly on subsequent treatment and diagnosis of patients. It is a part of what patients expect from health care providers."

The decision is significant, because it shields Indiana physicians from excess liability for the loss of medical records. It also ensures that those covered by a medical liability insurance pool established under the Malpractice Act will retain the protection of the state's damages limit in the event of such claims, said Bryan H. Babb, of Indianapolis, an attorney who represented the hospital and doctors in the case.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 12, 2011 10:04 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions