By: David J. Cutshaw, Attorney
In May of 2016, we contrasted the ability of a private citizen to sue a doctor for a violation of the child abuse reporting statute and the right of a doctor to sue a lawyer for an inadvertent disclosure of a doctor’s name in a medical malpractice complaint. Since May of 2016, Indiana Courts have continued to refuse to imply a private right of action for violations of other statutes in the following circumstances:
Doe v. Ind. Dept. of Child Services, 81 N.E. 3d 199 (Ind. 2017): The Indiana Supreme Court refused to infer a private right of action where the identity of a confidential informant who reported child abuse was released by DCS directly to the suspected abuser, resulting in threats to and harassment of the informant and his family. The statute in that case required DCS to keep the identity of the informant confidential. The Indiana Supreme Court held the informant had no legal recourse against DCS, adding more meaning to the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished mantra and creating the danger that other informants will hesitate to report child abuse at his or her own physical peril.
Shirey v. Flenar, 89 N.E. 3d 1102 (Ind. Ct. App. 2017): The Court of Appeals refused to recognize a private right of action when a physician lost or destroyed a patient’s records contrary to the requirements of an Indiana statute that requires the doctor to preserve a patient’s records and produce them to the patient when properly requested. In this case, the patient was unable to sue her doctor who did not produce her medical records for her inability to fully document her personal injury claim due to the lost/destroyed records. Again, doctors can sue lawyers for inadvertently disclosing their involvement in a medical malpractice suit, but a patient cannot sue a doctor under the circumstances in Shirey.
Cohen & Malad, LLP has been involved in several what we call mass tort medical malpractice cases. In essence, these cases involve situations where a doctor or surgeon has performed unnecessary procedures, not for the patient’s benefit, but for the benefit of the doctor’s pocketbook or ego.
As an example, an ENT in northern Indiana was performing unnecessary sinus surgeries. He advertised that he could fix sinus problems and snoring. He would bring the patient into his office, take a sinus CT scan (an xray of the sinuses), tell the patient that he or she had extensive sinus disease (when he or she did not), and then schedule the patient for seven to eleven sinus surgeries that cost tens of thousands of dollars. He did not do the surgeries he reported and got paid for, and instead just poked a hole in the patient’s maxillary sinuses (which often made the patient worse.) When we filed several claims against the ENT Surgeon, he cashed out, converted his cash to diamonds and fled the country. He remained on the run for five and one-half years until he was apprehended in the Italian Alps in a tent. Those cases were settled for millions.
As another example, we also have claims against a group of cardiologists who were implanting unnecessary pacemakers and defibrillators—and in many cases falsifying medical records to make it appear that those devices (which have wires that are screwed into the patient’s heart muscle) were appropriate—when they were not. We are currently looking at other cases where an ENT was billing for procedures that he did not do, similar to the case of the ENT in northern Indiana noted above.
When these cases arise, doctors, medical associations, and the public blame the lawyers, claiming the lawyers are only trying to line their own pockets. But the lawyers did not perform the unnecessary procedures; the doctors did. Filing these cases often puts a stop to this predatory conduct and puts the doctor out of business, so to speak. When this occurs, the doctor cannot hurt or endanger patients anymore; and we are very proud that we have been able to stop doctors from this conduct through these mass tort medical malpractice case filings.
In the case of the northern Indiana ENT, doctors in his area knew what he was doing for at least two years before we began filing lawsuits, but did nothing to stop it. In Indiana, there is a regulation that requires doctors to report other doctors who engage in improper conduct to the Health Professions Bureau, formerly known as the Medical Licensing Board, which will investigate the matter and take action to suspend or revoke the offending doctor’s license to practice medicine. 844 IAC 5-2-8 provides: “A practitioner who has personal knowledge…that another practitioner…has engaged in illegal, unlawful, incompetent, or fraudulent conduct in the practice of medicine shall promptly report such conduct to a peer review or similar body….This provision does not prohibit a practitioner from promptly reporting said conduct directly to the medical licensing board.” (emphasis added). The doctors who knew about this unethical and harmful conduct did not report the offending doctor and the conduct continued for at least two more years.
There are also ethical standards that doctors should live by which have been issued by their professional associations. For example, the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation (which governs Internal Medicine doctors, Cardiologists and Electrophysiologists) has issued an ethical pronouncement which states: “As members of a profession, physicians are expected to work collaboratively to maximize patient care, be respectful of one another, and participate in the processes of self-regulation, including remediation and discipline of members who have failed to meet professional standards….Physicians have both individual and collective obligations to participate in these processes.”
If doctors took these legal and ethical considerations to heart, there would be no need for mass tort medical malpractice cases or lawyers who often have to step in an put a stop to such conduct which harms patients, raises the cost of medical care, and deprives patients who actually need care from receiving proper treatment. So, the next time you are tempted to blame the lawyers, look below the surface and understand that the fault lies elsewhere.
By: Jeff S. Gibson, Attorney
Roughly 3,000 people in the U.S. have elbow replacement surgery each year. There are multiple conditions that can cause elbow pain and disability which lead patients and their doctors to consider elbow joint replacement surgery. Rheumatoid arthritis, degenerative joint disease, post-traumatic arthritis, severe fractures, and instability are the most common conditions that lead to elbow replacement.
Taking access rights to commercial or special use properties can be devastating to the business operated on site as well as the remaining value of the real estate. However, just because a condemning agency takes access to property, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will or is required to pay for it. The determination of when/if access rights are compensable in a particular taking can be complex. Often times removal/relocation of access to property can result in the business shutting down and the remaining value of the real estate being reduced to pennies on the dollar compared with what the owner previously thought or expected the property to be worth.
By now I’m sure all Hoosiers are well aware that the construction of I-69 Section 5 between Bloomington and Martinsville has been significantly delayed – by significant I’m referring to years, not months. The primary design-build contractor and subcontractor for this section of the I-69 Project, I-69 Development Partners and Isolux Corsan, completely blundered the project and Isolux Corsan is now pending bankruptcy. The big question for the property owners along the final portion of the I-69 Project, Section 6, is: what impact do the delays on Section 5 have on the timing for the land acquisition process for Section 6?
By: J. Eric Rochford, Indianapolis Eminent Domain Attorney
The City of Indianapolis’ most recent effort in “rapid transit” is the IndyGo Red Line. Phase 1 of this project is estimated to cost $96 million. It will travel from College Avenue in Broad Ripple, along 38 Street, down Meridian Street, through Fountain Square and ending at the University of Indianapolis. The 13.5-mile stretch of bus line will require the elimination of travel lanes, parking spots, and driveways on College Avenue, 38th Street, Meridian Street and Virginia Avenue. The project is almost certain to have a significant impact on vehicular traffic both during and after construction for those drivers who use these streets in Broad Ripple and downtown Indianapolis. However, some property owners will bear a much more significant burden.
By: Casandra L. Ringlespaugh, Attorney
The Indiana Civil Protection Order Act, or ICPOA, is a set of laws passed Indiana in 2002 in regards to domestic and family violence. Under the ICPOA, Courts can issue Orders to protect people from domestic or family violence, stalking, or a sex offense. These Court Orders are called “Protection Orders” or “Orders for Protection,” and the terms are used interchangeably. A protective order may be issued when a Judge finds, by a majority of the evidence, that the respondent (other person) represents a credible threat to the safety of petitioner…
By: Arend J. Abel, Attorney
Lawyers for an insurance company got a nasty surprise when a federal district court held that their use of the file-sharing service Box® waived attorney-client privilege and work product protections for the company’s entire claims file. On February 9, in Harleysville Insurance Company v. Holding Funeral Home, the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia decided that putting the file in an online “folder” for which it had previously sent a link to a third party waived both the attorney-client and work product protection.
By: Arend J. Abel, Attorney
You may remember just over a year ago when a partner in Barnes & Thornburg’s Chicago office was sanctioned for live-tweeting a trial. That event makes all the more surprising an Ethics Opinion that the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications issued last month. According to the Commission, live-tweeting a trial does not amount to “Broadcasting,” which is barred by Rule 2.17 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, except in very narrow circumstances or with prior permission of the Supreme Court.
By: J. Eric Rochford, Attorney
If you’ve ever bought or sold a home or any type of real estate, you have almost certainly seen (and hopefully) read a real estate appraisal. Typically, appraisals are in the standard 6-page Uniform Residential Appraisal Report format. However, appraisals for eminent domain/condemnation purposes Right-of-Way (“ROW appraisals”) are much different.