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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Widow waits years for action in malpractice lawsuit"

Sophia Voravong's long story in the Sunday Lafayette Journal Courier looks at the length of time involved in bringing a medical malpractice claim in Indiana. Some quotes:

[Michelle] Martinu filed her lawsuit and a claim with Indiana's Medical Review Panel in January 2010, nine months after her husband died.

Because of Indiana's medical malpractice act, Michelle Martinu cannot name the doctors or their affiliated hospital. The law requires the case go before a medical review panel of three doctors selected by the parties.

Until the panel makes its advisory decision, the lawsuit can't go forward, either. For now, Michelle Martinu's lawsuit is filed against anonymous doctor No. 1, doctor No. 2, doctor No. 3 and anonymous health system.

Their names, however, are included in other court documents -- among them, a request by Michelle Martinu's attorney, Tina Bell, to order one of the doctors to provide a recorded deposition -- and through the medical review panel's online records. * * *

For now, other details of Frank Martinu's death likely won't be known until the medical review panel issues an opinion and the case goes to trial.

The length of time it's taking doesn't surprise Lafayette attorney Jeff Cooke. He's not involved in Michelle Martinu's lawsuit, but his firm has handled a number of wrongful death claims. He described Indiana's medical malpractice act, and the practice of suing a doctor, as long-winded and confusing.

"It is frustrating squared," Cooke said. "It was designed, in my opinion, to be that way ... so that the plaintiffs run out of gas, run out of money, run out of patience.

"The system is orchestrated to be frustrating, lingering, never-ending for people who are not lawyers and doctors."

Here is another issue addressed in the story:
Superior Court 1 Judge Randy Williams has issued an emergency gag order that required, in part, a user of YouTube to remove a documentary-style video of Frank Martinu's story as told by Michelle Martinu, her teenage son and others. Twelve days after the video was posted, it had been viewed 722 times, according to the defendants' attorneys. The gag order was requested by the defendants' attorneys to prevent tainting prospective jurors.

The judge agreed.

"Today's technological innovations require merely a telephone for an individual to obtain information on a variety of topics, including those posted on YouTube, Facebook and whatever new system will be introduced next week," Williams wrote on March 5.

One of the doctor's attorneys requested the gag order, based on concerns that it could jeopardize defendants' rights to a fair trial.

"The video presents plaintiff's rendition of the events of March 21, 2009, in a skewed and prejudicial manner. The video is labeled as a 'tragedy.' It includes only select pieces of information from the hospital records, and it takes that information out of context of the entire course of events that occurred on March 21, 2009," the attorneys, Feldlake and Elizabeth Schuerman, wrote.

The main allegation of Michelle Martinu's lawsuit is that doctors did not act quickly enough to recognize obvious signs of Frank Martinu's massive blood loss and that, once transfusions were started, it was too late.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 25, 2012 02:32 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts