Indiana Supreme Court Finds Physician Liability When Patient Injures Third Party

The state Supreme Court recently addressed a critical question regarding the scope of the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (IMMA). The underlying lawsuit arose when a woman ran a red light and crashed into another vehicle. The woman was traveling with her granddaughter, who testified that she saw her grandmother swallow two pills before saying, “I can’t stop,” while approaching the intersection. The husband and father of the decedents filed a lawsuit against the Physician who prescribed the woman opiates and against the Indiana Department of Insurance under the IMMA.

The plaintiff argued that the physician breached the standard of care by failing to :

  • To warn the driver of operating a vehicle under the influence of the medications he prescribed her,
  • To screen her for cognitive impairments,
  • Adjusting her medications to address her muscle control, and
  • Asking the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles to assess the woman’s driving ability.

After settling with the physician, the plaintiff sought excess damages from the Patient’s Compensation Fund (PCF). In response, the PCF denied the claim by arguing that the IMMA did not cover the underlying act.

The IMMA defines the types of claims and claimants subject to the IMMA. The IMMA covers malpractice claims that a patient or their representative brings against a healthcare professional. In this case, the critical inquiry is whether the term “patient” covers the plaintiff. The Court reasoned that IMMA classifies “patient” as either a traditional patient or a third-party claimant.

A traditional patient is one with a physician-patient relationship, such as one who receives care from a health care provider under an implied or express contract. In comparison, a third-party patient in this context is a person who suffers injuries because of the alleged malpractice of a healthcare provider towards a person in the first category. In this case, the plaintiff falls into the statutory third-party patient relationship because his wrongful-death claim results from the physician’s malpractice to the driver, who is his traditional patient. The court rejected the PCF’s assertion that the third party “patient” only applies under a generic negligence lawsuit, not medical malpractice claims. However, the Court found that the PCF ignored the relevant structure and text of the statute. As such, the Court found that the IMMA applies in contexts when a qualifying healthcare providers’ negligent treatment of another causes a plaintiff to suffer an injury.

Have You Suffered Injuries Because of a Negligent Healthcare Provider

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died because of another’s negligence, contact Padove Law. Attorney Burton Padove has extensive experience successfully representing clients in Indiana personal injury lawsuits stemming from medical malpractice, car accidents, premises liability, dangerous products, and wrongful deaths. For nearly 40 years, Mr. Padove has been providing Indiana accident victims with excellent representation through some of the most challenging times in their lives. He has obtained record verdicts on behalf of his clients. Contact Padove Law at 877-446-5294 to schedule a free and confidential initial consultation to discuss your personal injury case and how Attorney Padove can help.



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