What is required of plaintiffs to protect their right to challenge the applicability of the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act when there exists a question as to whether a claim arises from medical malpractice or ordinary negligence? The Indiana Court of Appeals answered this question in Cmty. Hosps. of Indiana, Inc. v. Aspen Ins. UK Ltd., a case in which two insurance companies paid damages to persons injured in a trucking collision and then sought to recover those damages from a medical provider who had cleared the at-fault truck driver to drive a commercial motor vehicle.
The insurance companies contemporaneously filed a proposed complaint for damages with the Indiana Department of Insurance (IDOI) and an anonymous state-court complaint for damages against Community Hospitals of Indiana, Inc. (Community). Community employed a nurse practitioner who performed a physical examination of the negligent truck driver prior to the collision pursuant to a contract between Community and the truck driver’s company that required qualified Community employees to conduct physical examinations based on Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements. The insurance companies alleged that Community was negligent in not notifying the truck driver’s company of a medical condition that would have precluded the truck driver’s ability to drive a commercial motor vehicle under Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations, thus preventing the trucking accident.
Medical malpractice claims are subject to the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (IMMA), which, among other things, caps damages, maintains the doctrine of contributory negligence, and requires that claims be submitted to medical review panels prior to being presented to a jury. However, the IMMA does not apply to all cases involving healthcare providers. If a healthcare provider’s negligence is unrelated to the promotion of a patient’s health or the exercise of professional expertise, skill or judgment, then it does not constitute medical negligence, but rather ordinary negligence, falling outside the scope of the IMMA. Indiana courts have noted that a case falls under ordinary negligence when the factual issues can be resolved by a jury without regard to the applicable standard of care. Alternatively, a case sounds in medical negligence when there is a causal connection between the conduct complained of and the nature of the patient-healthcare provider relationship.