Three different deceased patients of cardiologist / cardiology group claimed alleged malpractice. Summary judgment on the statute of limitations was sought by the defendants in each claim. The claimants argued tolling of the statute of limitations.
Mr. Jensen appeared before the Court of Appeals and after oral argument it affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment and evidentiary rulings in Biedron. In Sullivan and Poteet, the Court of Appeals reversed all of the trial courts’ rulings and granted the cardiologists’ and group’s Motions For Summary Judgment and Motions To Strike.The Indiana Supreme Court denied transfer in all three cases.
Eichhorn & Eichhorn, LLP’s clients were Indiana cardiologists and an Indiana cardiology group who were sued by the personal representatives of three different deceased patients. Each of the claimants alleged medical malpractice on the part of the cardiologists and cardiology group for a variety of reasons, but primarily on the basis that each patient supposedly had received an unnecessary implanted cardiac device. Summary judgment was sought as to each claim because each was untimely filed due to the expiration of three separate applicable limitations periods. The claimants all argued tolling due to alleged “actual fraud,” and that the “occurrence”-based statute of limitations specific to the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act was “unconstitutional as applied.” In support of their opposition, the claimants relied upon both expert opinion and family member testimony to contend that the devices were unnecessary, the patients had been misled as to the need for their respective devices and that neither the patients nor their family members had reason to suspect malpractice.
The trial court in Biedron granted summary judgment and struck a portion of the expert’s affidavit, but the trial courts in both Sullivan and Poteet denied summary judgment and denied the cardiologists’ motions to strike the evidence designated by those two claimants. In this consolidated appeal, however, the Indiana Court of Appeals held in all respects for the cardiologists and the group. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment and evidentiary rulings in Biedron. In Sullivan and Poteet, the Court of Appeals reversed all of the trial courts’ rulings and granted the cardiologists’ and group’s Motions For Summary Judgment and Motions To Strike. Applying the correct standard for each of the applicable limitations periods and tolling theories, the Court of Appeals held that each patient or representative had sufficient knowledge of facts to trigger an obligation to make further inquiry about the possibility of malpractice - neither the patients nor the representatives actually had to suspect or have reason to suspect malpractice. Each representative further failed to prove “actual fraud;” it was improper for the expert to opine as to the knowledge or motive of the cardiologists and the expert’s opinions of negligence were not material to establish the requisite intentional state of mind for establishing tolling due to “actual fraud.”