We previously blogged about the Seventh Circuit’s certified question to the Indiana Supreme Court: “Whether Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act applies to claims brought against qualified providers for individuals who did not receive medical care from the provider, but who are injured as a result of the provider’s negligence in providing medical treatment to someone else?” In Cutchin v. Beard, the Indiana Supreme Court answered this question in the affirmative.
The Indiana Patient’s Compensation Fund will often take the position in claims for excess compensation that the Medical Malpractice Act does not apply when it would mean escaping liability for otherwise viable claims. In Cutchin, the Fund secured a dismissal of the excess damages claim brought against it by Jeffrey Cutchin. Cutchin had settled a malpractice claim with a qualified medical provider who had negligently prescribed opiates and other medications to Sylvian Watson. Watson had run a red light and killed Cutchin’s wife and daughter. Watson claimed she could not lift her foot from the accelerator in time to stop her vehicle due to the opiates and other medications prescribed by the provider. Despite the settlement, the Fund sought to avoid paying excess damages. Upon appeal of the federal district court’s ruling, the Seventh Circuit certified the above question, as well as another that went unanswered.
In arriving at its decision, the Indiana Supreme Court first addressed the Act’s definition of “patient” found in Indiana Code Section 34-18-2-22: “an individual who receives or should have received health care from a health care provider, under a contract, express or implied, and includes a person having a claim of any kind, whether derivative or otherwise, as a result of alleged malpractice on the part of a health care provider. Derivative claims include the claims of a parent or parents, guardian, trustee, child, relative, attorney, or any other representative of the patient including claims for loss of services, loss of consortium, expenses, and other similar claims.” The Court found this definition creates two categories of “patient” under the Act: the first is the traditional patient who receives care by a provider; the second is a third party whose claim results from a provider’s medical malpractice to a traditional patient.