An Indiana dentist, under fire for allegedly over-billing Medicaid and over-treating patients, will not have to face a civil trial for at least three of those patients, after their Indiana medical malpractice claim was shot down for failing to comply with the statute of limitations.
In a recent decision, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the plaintiffs’ claim could not proceed because it was not filed within the two-year window allowed for claims involving medical negligence and personal injury.
According to the joint complaint filed by three patients treated by the defendant dentist in January 2012, one claimant underwent conscious sedation for the removal of a single tooth, only to awaken and learn the dentist had removed 11 teeth. In the other two cases, both patients agreed to the removal of all of their teeth, but only because the dentist told them if they did not, they would be at immediate risk of heart attack, stroke, or death.
In January 2015, the trio filed a joint complaint, alleging claims of negligence, medical malpractice, and violations of RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization).
The defendant dentist filed a motion for summary judgment on all of the claims, arguing they were time-barred because they were not filed within two years. Furthermore, the defendant alleged there was insufficient evidence for a RICO charge.
The trial court granted a summary judgment on the RICO charge, finding that the evidence was insufficient and further that the medical malpractice and negligence claims were filed outside the designated two-year window per Indiana Code § 34-11-2-4(a)(1) and Indiana Code § 34-18-7-1.
The plaintiff then ran into some procedural trouble, since she failed to file a traditional notice of appeal, later admitting to her misinterpretation of the error. The plaintiff further failed to establish a showing of exceptional circumstances that would invoke the court’s equitable powers rule to allow the matter to proceed.
The state appeals court affirmed.
It’s unfortunate that sometimes even legitimate claims can be barred from ever seeing a courtroom, due to the statute of limitations. The idea from the legislative perspective was that defendants should not be placed at a disadvantage by trying to defend themselves from claims that are stale, with evidence that has aged or witnesses whose memories have faded.
But this is why it is so important to pay attention to the statute of limitations, based on the nature of your claim. Most injury claims will need to be filed within two years. In cases in which there is a delayed discovery of a particular injury or its cause in a medical malpractice claim, or when the victim is a minor under six, the time period may be different.
It does seem like the merits of this case would have resulted in a substantial amount of compensation for numerous plaintiffs, had it been allowed to proceed. This particular dentist has been sued by no less than five patients for similar allegations.
WISHTV.com reports “dental overtreatment” comprises 44 percent of all complaints against dentists in Indiana, according to the state attorney general’s office.
The defendant dentist was previously the subject of a licensing complaint that alleged receiving $27,000 in over-billed reimbursements for procedures he performed on some 160 patients.
The U.S. Department of Health’s Office of the Inspector General is reportedly investigating pediatric dentistry practices in Indiana, and it discovered questionable billing practices in 95 cases. One of those named was the defendant in this case.
If you are concerned you may have been overtreated by your dentist, contact our medical malpractice lawyers in Highland.
Indiana Injury Attorney Burton A. Padove handles personal injury claims throughout northern Indiana, including Highland, Gary and Hammond. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.
Adams v. Gonqueh, Sept. 1, 2017, Indiana Court of Appeals
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