The Indiana Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in Biedron v. Anonymous Physician 1 addressing the applicable statute of limitations in medical malpractice lawsuits in Indiana.
Biedron involved three related medical malpractice claims, which were consolidated for the purposes of the appeal. Proposed complaints for medical malpractice were filed by the plaintiffs with the Indiana Department of Insurance more than two (2) years after the alleged malpractice occurred in each of the cases. The plaintiffs in each of the cases argued that the 2-year occurrence-based statute of limitations, as set forth in the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, should be tolled under the doctrine of fraudulent concealment. With differing trial court orders on the defendant healthcare providers’ motions for summary judgment on the statute of limitations issue, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed in part and reversed in part, finding in favor of the Indiana healthcare providers.
Under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, a medical malpractice claim, whether in contract or tort, may not be brought against a healthcare provider based upon professional services or healthcare that was provided, or that should have been provided, unless the claim is filed within two (2) yeas after the date of the alleged act, omission, or neglect, except that a minor less than six (6) years of age has until the minor’s eighth birthday to file. Ind. Code § 34-18-7-1.
Under the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, however, a defendant cannot assert the 2-year occurrence-based statute of limitations as a defense if the defendant, by deception or violation of a duty, concealed material facts from the plaintiff that prevented discovery of the malpractice.
If the concealment was passive, or constructive, which can result from mere negligence, then the statute begins to run when the patient-physician relationship ends, or until the discovery of the malpractice, whichever is earlier.
If the concealment was active, that is, involving affirmative acts of concealment intended to mislead or hinder the plaintiff from obtaining information concerning the malpractice, then the statute does not expire until a reasonable time after the plaintiff discovers, or with reasonable diligence could have discovered, the existence of the malpractice.
Similar to the doctrine of fraudulent concealment, defendants also cannot use the 2-year statute of limitations as a defense if a plaintiff did not know of the malpractice and resulting injury and had not discovered facts that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have led to the discovery of the malpractice and resulting injury. When a patient does not know of, and could not have discovered, the malpractice and resulting injury within the 2-year statute of limitations, then the patient has two (2) years from the date of the discovery thereof to file.
However, if within the 2-year statute of limitations a plaintiff knows of the malpractice and resulting injury, or learns facts that, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should lead to the discovery thereof, then the plaintiff must file within the 2-year statute of limitations or within a reasonable period of time after discovery thereof if a lawsuit could not have been filed in the exercise of due diligence within the 2-year period.
In this case, the plaintiffs were unable to establish fraudulent concealment by the defendant healthcare providers, or that they filed their lawsuits within the appropriate timeframe after they discovered, or could have discovered, the malpractice and resulting injury.
Barsumian Law LLC has offices in Newburgh, Indiana, Evansville, Indiana and Fishers, Indiana, serving the greater Evansville and Indianapolis areas. In addition to handling medical malpractice cases, our injury lawyers handle cases arising from car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, defective products, premise liability, and nursing home negligence.