Ahnert v. Wildman, No. 2-477A127

Docket NºNo. 2-477A127
Citation376 N.E.2d 1182, 176 Ind.App. 630
Case DateJune 14, 1978
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

Page 1182

376 N.E.2d 1182
176 Ind.App. 630
Lawrence M. AHNERT, Appellant (Plaintiff below),
v.
R. E. WILDMAN, M.D., and Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company,
a/k/a Chessie System, Appellees (Defendants below).
No. 2-477A127.
Court of Appeals of Indiana,Second District.
June 14, 1978.

Page 1183

Jeffry G. Price, Peru, for appellant.

George R. Wildman, Miller, Tolbert, Hirschauer & Wildman, Logansport, Russell J. Wildman, Peru, for appellees.

BUCHANAN, Chief Judge.

CASE SUMMARY

Plaintiff-Appellant Lawrence M. Ahnert (Ahnert) appeals the granting of a summary judgment to R. E. Wildman, M.D. (Dr. [176 Ind.App. 631] Wildman) and the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway Company (Chessie System), claiming procedural irregularities and the judgment was contrary to law.

We affirm.

FACTS

In 1973, Ahnert, a fireman for the Chessie System, entered a West Virginia hospital to be treated for depression. After two sojourns in the hospital, Ahnert was discharged in February, 1974, by Dr. Florence Hobbock, his attending psychiatrist.

Page 1184

Before he could return to work, however, the Chessie System required the approval of Dr. Wildman, the company physician. That approval was consistently denied until July of 1974.

During this period (February to July, 1974) Ahnert was the beneficiary of health insurance policies which required certification by an attending physician of his inability to work. Otherwise benefits would not be paid.

Dr. Wildman repeatedly refused to complete the insurance forms, claiming that he was not the attending physician. Similarly, Ahnert's attempts to have the forms completed by his attending physicians were also unsuccessful. No certification, no insurance benefits.

Ahnert subsequently filed suit 1 against Dr. Wildman and the Chessie [176 Ind.App. 632] System claiming the doctor negligently failed to complete the forms. On October 13, 1976, Dr. Wildman filed the following motion for summary judgment:

MOTION FOR SUMMARY

Comes now R. E. Wildman, M.D., by counsel, and respectfully moves the Court to enter summary judgment for this defendant and against the plaintiff pursuant to Indiana Rules of Procedure, on the grounds that the plaintiff admitted in his deposition that this defendant, R. E. Wildman, M.D., was not his treating or attending physician; and, therefore, it is apparent that there is no genuine issue as to the following material facts:

1. The defendant, R. E. Wildman, M.D., did not owe a duty to the plaintiff.

[176 Ind.App. 633]

Page 1185

2. Since there was no duty owed, there could be no breach of that duty.

WHEREFORE, the defendant, R. E. Wildman, M.D., prays for judgment based upon the undisputed facts which show that as a matter of law the plaintiff cannot recover against this defendant and that the said defendant, R. E. Wildman, M.D., is entitled to judgment.

On October 15, the Chessie System also filed a motion for summary judgment.

A hearing on these motions was held October 21, 1974, and two weeks later summary judgment was granted in favor of Dr. Wildman and the Chessie System.

ISSUES

Ahnert raises the following issues on appeal:

1. Did the trial court erroneously grant summary judgment as a matter of law?

2. Did the trial court commit reversible error by failing to follow the requirements of Trial Rule 56 in granting summary judgment?

PARTIES' CONTENTIONS

Initially, Ahnert contends the decision is contrary to law because Dr. Wildman owed Ahnert a duty to fill out his insurance forms. As that duty was breached, the Doctor and the Railroad (under the doctrine of respondeat superior) are liable for damages arising out of a breach.

The defendants reply that Dr. Wildman was merely an examining physician and had no responsibility to fill out the forms. Consequently, no recovery was possible against the Chessie System.

Secondly, Ahnert raises a number of alleged procedural irregularities committed by the trial court. He claims that the hearing on the summary judgment was held within ten days of the filing and service of notice of that motion, and thus violates Trial Rule 56. Further, the trial court failed to state it had found no genuine issues of material fact, nor upon what evidence it made that finding. Further, the trial court [176 Ind.App. 634] failed to indicate what issues it had decided. He also objects to the form of the motion because it contains unsworn allegations of fact.

Dr. Wildman replies these asserted errors are not grounds for reversal. Ahnert failed to object to holding the summary judgment hearing and has waived that issue. He further argues that there is no requirement that the court state there is no issue of material fact, and that because duty is the only issue presented, the facts clearly support the court's conclusion. Further, there is no requirement that a finding be made regarding the evidence used in reaching a conclusion.

DECISION
ISSUE ONE

CONCLUSION The trial court did not erroneously grant summary judgment as a matter of law.

As will hereinafter appear, we conclude that there was no genuine issue as to any material facts before the trial court. Therefore, it is important to determine if the trial court wrongfully applied the law to the facts in rendering summary judgment. This necessarily leads us to a consideration of the physician-patient relationship.

Those who take the Hippocratic oath undertake to practice the healing art on a consensual basis with their patients, usually in expectation of payment for services rendered. The physician-patient relationship has been held to be a consensual one, wherein the patient knowingly seeks the assistance of a physician and the physician knowingly accepts him as a patient. Findlay v. Board of Supervisors of Mohave County (1951), 72 Ariz. 58, 230 P.2d 526, 24 A.L.R.2d 841. The relationship may result from an express or implied contract, either general or special, and the rights and the liabilities of the parties are governed by the general law of contract, Spencer v. West (La.App.1960), 126 So.2d 423, 97 A.L.R.2d 1224. The consensual nature of this relationship

Page 1186

between the "treating" (or attending) physician and the patient is the key to the duties imposed upon the physicians. See generally 61 Am.Jur.2d, Physicians, Surgeons, Etc., § 96.

However, a different, non-consensual relationship comes into being of a physician examines a job applicant or employee for the benefit of a [176 Ind.App. 635] prospective or actual employer. The "examining" physician under these circumstances ordinarily has not consented to treat the patient, and the courts have uniformly imposed a lesser duty of care than that owed to regular patients. See Hoover v. Williamson (1964), 236 Md. 250, 203 A.2d 861, 10 A.L.R.3d 1064.

Dr. Wildman falls into the latter category . . . he merely examined Ahnert as to his fitness to resume employment at the request of and for the benefit of the Chessie System (who presumably compensated him). Should Dr. Wildman, then, be required to fill out Ahnert's insurance forms on demand? Does an examining physician have such a duty?

A closer look at the rights and duties arising out of the two categories of physicians provides the answer.

A. THE "TREATING" PHYSICIAN

Many jurisdictions impose on the treating physician responsibilities that go beyond health care as such. Canterbury v. Spence (1972), 150 U.S.App.D.C. 263, 464 F.2d 772; Cobbs v. Grant (1972), 8 Cal.3d 229, 104 Cal.Rptr. 505, 502 P.2d 1; Cannell v. Medical & Surgical Clinic, S.C. (1974), 21 Ill.App.3d 383, 315 N.E.2d 278; Alexander v. Knight (1962), 197 Pa.Super. 79, 177 A.2d 142.

One of such responsibilities is to aid the patient in litigation and render reports when necessary, Alexander, supra. Another may be to offer medical testimony on behalf of the patient if necessary. Hammonds v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Company (1965), 243 F.Supp. 793.

Murphy v. Godwin (Del.1973), 303 A.2d 668, is the leading case as to the duty of an attending physician to fill out insurance forms. The Murphys, after discovering Mrs. Murphy had a serious kidney infection, decided to apply for health insurance for their family. They made application on July 22, 1970, and a routine insurance form was sent to Dr. Godwin, their family physician, on July 30, 1970. The form, called an "attending physician's statement", consisted of five questions on a single page, seeking information concerning diagnosis, treatment, and present conditions regarding specific illnesses treated by the physician. Repeated calls and visits failed to persuade Dr. Godwin to complete the form, and on September 2, 1970, Mrs. Murphy delivered twins [176 Ind.App. 636] who were born with congenital illnesses. Because the form was not returned until November, the insurance company refused to honor the application.

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22 practice notes
  • Gomez v. Adams, No. 2-882A239
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 17 Abril 1984
    ...and because this infringement of the ten day rule is not here raised as an issue, the defect is waived. Ahnert v. Wildman (2d Dist.1978) 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 1182, The circumstances here are distinguishable from those set forth in Commissioner, Indiana State Highway Department v. Co......
  • Ervin v. American Guardian Life Assur. Co.
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 29 Julio 1988
    ...also: Annotation: What Constitutes Physician-Patient Relationship for Malpractice Purposes, 17 A.L.R.4th 132 (1982); Ahnert v. Wildman, 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 1182 In Hoover v. Williamson, supra, the plaintiff had been examined by a physician on behalf of the plaintiff's employer. The......
  • Gibraltar Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hoosier Ins. Co., No. 2-484-A-115
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 11 Diciembre 1985
    ...apparent from the record, we may remand to the trial court for such a statement." Id., citing Ahnert v. Wildman (1978) 2d Dist., 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 2 Gibraltar also asserts that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon its Motion for Summary Judgment. Gibraltar's a......
  • Shortridge v. Platis, No. 2-383A80
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 12 Enero 1984
    ...to the judgment. County of Ventura, State of Cal. v. Neice, (1982) Ind.App., 434 N.E.2d 907; Ahnert v. Wildman, M.D. et al., (1978) 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d Appellants' case against Wechsler and Nick Thiros is clearly predicated on the liability of George Platis. Because appellants have......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
22 cases
  • Gomez v. Adams, No. 2-882A239
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 17 Abril 1984
    ...and because this infringement of the ten day rule is not here raised as an issue, the defect is waived. Ahnert v. Wildman (2d Dist.1978) 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 1182, The circumstances here are distinguishable from those set forth in Commissioner, Indiana State Highway Department v. Co......
  • Ervin v. American Guardian Life Assur. Co.
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • 29 Julio 1988
    ...also: Annotation: What Constitutes Physician-Patient Relationship for Malpractice Purposes, 17 A.L.R.4th 132 (1982); Ahnert v. Wildman, 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 1182 In Hoover v. Williamson, supra, the plaintiff had been examined by a physician on behalf of the plaintiff's employer. The......
  • Gibraltar Mut. Ins. Co. v. Hoosier Ins. Co., No. 2-484-A-115
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 11 Diciembre 1985
    ...apparent from the record, we may remand to the trial court for such a statement." Id., citing Ahnert v. Wildman (1978) 2d Dist., 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d 2 Gibraltar also asserts that it was entitled to judgment as a matter of law upon its Motion for Summary Judgment. Gibraltar's a......
  • Shortridge v. Platis, No. 2-383A80
    • United States
    • Indiana Court of Appeals of Indiana
    • 12 Enero 1984
    ...to the judgment. County of Ventura, State of Cal. v. Neice, (1982) Ind.App., 434 N.E.2d 907; Ahnert v. Wildman, M.D. et al., (1978) 176 Ind.App. 630, 376 N.E.2d Appellants' case against Wechsler and Nick Thiros is clearly predicated on the liability of George Platis. Because appellants have......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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