The Indiana Court of Appeals recently directed a trial court to dismiss a particular theory of liability pursued by a medical malpractice plaintiff after completion of the medical review panel process because the plaintiff’s proposed complaint did not encompass the theory. In Holsten v. Faur, Linda Holsten (“Holsten”) filed a medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuit arising out of medical care her husband, Paul Holsten (“Paul”), received at an urgent care facility and hospital. Under Indiana’s Medical Malpractice Act, medical malpractice claimants must file a proposed complaint before the Indiana Department of Insurance and obtain an opinion from a medical review panel before they can prosecute their medical malpractice claims in court.
Holsten filed a proposed complaint specifically alleging the defendants committed malpractice in not ordering a chest x-ray (“the x-ray malpractice theory”) and in ordering steroids (“the steroid malpractice theory”), which she alleged resulted in her husband’s death of necrotizing staphylococcus aureus pneumonia. The medical review panel formed to review the case found the defendants failed to comply with the appropriate standard of care; however, they were unable to determine if the defendants’ conduct was a factor in Paul’s death. After receiving the opinion and speaking with the panelists, Holsten filed a state court complaint that was identical in pertinent parts to her proposed complaint, except that she removed the steroid malpractice theory and added another theory which she learned from one of the panelists, that is, that the hospital’s sepsis protocol was not followed (“the sepsis malpractice theory”).
The hospital filed for partial summary judgment arguing that Holsten’s sepsis malpractice theory had not been presented to the medical review panel as required by the Medical Malpractice Act. The trial court agreed with the hospital and entered partial summary judgment in favor of the hospital as to the sepsis malpractice theory. Agreeing that Holsten had failed to present the sepsis malpractice theory to the panel, but that the trial court did not, therefore, have subject matter jurisdiction as to that theory, the Indiana Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s summary judgment order and remanded the case with instructions for the trial court to dismiss, without prejudice, Holsten’s sepsis malpractice theory of liability.