And v. Anonymous Party 1

Decision Date20 November 2013
Docket NumberNo. 53A01–1210–CT–472.,53A01–1210–CT–472.
Citation998 N.E.2d 286
PartiesThomas HAGGERTY and, Cathy Haggerty, Appellants/Cross–Appellees, v. ANONYMOUS PARTY 1, Appellee, Anonymous Party 2, and Anonymous Party 3, Appellees/Cross–Appellants.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

OPINION TEXT STARTS HERE

Carl Paul Lamb, Carl Lamb and Associates, Bloomington, IN, Attorney for Appellants.

Scott P. Whonsetler, James N. Martin, Jr., Whonsetler & Johnson, PLLC, Louisville, KY, Robert G. Zeigler, Jennifer A. Padgett, Zeigler Cohen & Koch, Indianapolis, IN, Attorneys for Appellees.

OPINION

VAIDIK, Judge.

Case Summary

In the winter of 2008, pawn-shop owner Thomas Haggerty was hospitalized for complications related to his alcoholism. Immediately after his release from the hospital, he traveled to a treatment facility in Indianapolis, but he became agitated when professionals there recommended in-patient treatment. He refused treatment and informed staff and security officers that he would walk back to his home in Bloomington, despite the fact that it was nighttime and the temperature was well below freezing. Security officers took him to a nearby medical facility, where he was detained and evaluated. He was treated and released four days later.

Thomas and his wife Cathy (collectively, the Haggertys) later filed a proposed medical-malpractice complaint against three parties (“the anonymous parties) involved in Thomas's detention. The Haggertys also filed an action against the same parties in Monroe Circuit Court. The anonymous parties filed motions for summary judgment, arguing that they were immune from liability under Indiana law. The trial court granted summary judgment for the first anonymous party, AP1, but denied the joint summary-judgment motion of the remaining parties, AP2 and AP3. The Haggertys appealed the grant of summary judgment. AP2 and AP3 filed a belated motion to certify the trial court's order for interlocutory appeal. The trial court granted the belated motion, and this Court accepted jurisdiction over the combined appeal.

The parties make a number of arguments on appeal. The main arguments, however, pertain to jurisdiction and immunity. The Haggertys argue that the trial court did not have jurisdiction to rule on the issue of immunity because that issue was reserved for the medical review panel. They also argue that none of the anonymous parties are entitled to immunity under Indiana law because they violated Thomas's personal or civil rights.

We conclude that the trial court had jurisdiction to rule on the issue of immunity because it is an affirmative defense. We also conclude that the Haggertys' suit against the anonymous parties is barred by statutory immunity. We affirm the trial court's grant of summary judgment, on immunity grounds, to AP1. We conclude that there is no genuine issue of material fact as to whether immunity also applies to AP2 and AP3; thus, we reverse the trial court's denial of their motion for summary judgment. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

Facts and Procedural History

Thomas Haggerty, a pawn-shop owner living in Bloomington, Indiana, has a long history of alcohol abuse. By age fifty-eight, Thomas consumed twelve beers and a liter of vodka daily. One day in January 2008, Thomas was hospitalized after he lost consciousness at his home. Doctors at a local hospital determined that Thomas had experienced a grand-mal seizure.

Thomas was hospitalized for ten days. During this time he was treated for alcohol withdrawal and severe anemia caused by his alcoholism. Thomas was also treated in the hospital's Behavioral Care Unit for other alcohol-related complications. On Wednesday, January 31, Thomas was discharged. The plan was that Thomas would travel immediately to AP1, a facility in Indianapolis, to receive treatment for his alcoholism.

On the day he was discharged, Cathy drove Thomas to AP1. When they arrived that evening, Thomas was upset to learn that he needed in-patient treatment. He became uncooperative and walked out of AP1. Although the temperature was about eight degrees, Thomas proclaimed he would walk from Indianapolis to his home in Bloomington, a distance of approximately fifty miles.

AP1 called security officers at AP2, a nearby medical facility, and told them that Thomas had left the facility against medical advice and was threatening to walk to Bloomington. AP2's security officers found Thomas walking along a nearby road and stopped to speak to him. Cathy arrived and told the officers that Thomas had a history of alcohol abuse and was supposed to be receiving in-patient treatment for his alcoholism at AP1. Thomas refused to return to the facility and insisted he would walk home. AP2's security officers restrained Thomas and took him to AP2.

After Thomas arrived at AP2, a doctor completed an application for emergency detention. In the application, the doctor noted that Thomas had a psychiatric disorder, was an alcoholic, and posed a danger to himself because he was threatening to walk to Bloomington. The doctor also indicated his belief that if Thomas was not restrained, he would kill himself. Appellants' Confidential App. p. 211–12. Thomas was admitted to AP2 for treatment.

Other AP2 doctors and medical personnel evaluated Thomas. Every evaluation indicated that Thomas was suffering from a number of alcohol-related complications.1 The evaluations were conflicting, however, as to Thomas's suicide risk—an in-patient suicide evaluation stated that Thomas had no suicidal ideation, but a daily flow sheet noted that Thomas posed a moderate suicide risk. See Appellants' Confidential App. p. 298,301.

Thomas was released on Tuesday, February 5. He received additional treatment at AP1 before returning to his home in Bloomington.

The Haggertys filed a proposed complaint for medical malpractice in 2010. AP1, AP2, and AP3—a corporate entity related to AP2—were named as defendants in the proposed complaint.2 The Haggertys also filed an action against the same parties in Monroe Circuit Court. AP1 filed a motion for preliminary determination of law for summary judgment. AP2 and AP3 likewise filed a joint motion for preliminary determination for summary judgment. All three anonymous parties argued that they were immune from liability under Indiana Code section 12–26–2–6, which grants immunity to those who assist or participate in proceedings for an individual's detention or commitment.

The Haggertys filed a brief in opposition to the summary-judgment motions. 3 They designated eleven exhibits as evidence. These exhibits included portions of Thomas's medical records, the application for emergency detention, and other medical documents. The Haggertys did not designate any affidavits. Weeks later, the Haggertys sought to amend their designated evidence to add affidavits of Thomas and Cathy, their amended proposed complaint, and three additional portions of Thomas's medical records. The anonymous parties objected to the Haggertys' motion to amend their designated evidence.

After hearing oral argument, the trial court issued an order on the pending motions. See Appellants' App. p. 133. The trial court granted the Haggertys' motion to amend their designated evidence. The court also concluded that it had jurisdiction to preliminarily determine the issue of immunity. It determined that there was no genuine issue of material fact that AP1 was immune and granted AP1's summary-judgment motion. Id. However, it concluded that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding AP2 and AP3's immunity, so it denied summary judgment as to AP2 and AP3. Id.

The Haggertys filed a motion to correct error, and AP2 and AP3 filed a motion to reconsider. The trial court denied both motions. The Haggertys filed notice of appeal. AP2 and AP3 later filed a belated motion requesting certification of the court's order for interlocutory appeal. AP2 and AP3 sought to join the Haggertys' pending appeal against AP1, which involved the same issues raised by AP2 and AP3 in their motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the belated motion for certification, and this Court accepted jurisdiction over the combined appeal.

Discussion and Decision
I. Jurisdiction

The Haggertys first challenge the trial court's authority to preliminarily determine the issue of immunity.

A trial court's jurisdiction to intervene in the workings of a medical review panel through a motion for preliminary determination of law is governed by Indiana Code section 34–18–11–1. In relevant part, the Section provides that:

(a) A court having jurisdiction over the subject matter and the parties to a proposed complaint filed with the commissioner under this article may, upon the filing of a copy of the proposed complaint and a written motion under this chapter, do one (1) or both of the following:

(1) preliminarily determine an affirmative defense or issue of law or fact that may be preliminarily determinedunder the Indiana Rules of Procedure; or

(2) compel discovery in accordance with the Indiana Rules of Procedure.

(b) The court has no jurisdiction to rule preliminarily upon any affirmative defense or issue of law or fact reserved for written opinion by the medical review panel under IC 34–18–10–22(b)(1), IC 34–18–10–22(b)(2), and IC 34–18–10–22(b)(4).

In Griffith v. Jones, our Supreme Court consulted the Indiana Trial Rules and defined trial courts' jurisdiction in this context explicitly:

Our review of the rules reveals that Trial Rule 8(C) contains a listing of affirmative defenses, Trial Rule 12(B) and (C) sets forth a listing of matters which can be preliminarily determined by motion, and Trial Rules 26 through 37, inclusively, contain the discovery rules. We hold that Indiana Code section 16–9.5–10–1 specifically limits the power of the trial courts of this State to preliminarily determining affirmative defenses under [the] Trial Rules, deciding issues of law or fact that may be preliminarily determined under Trial Rule 12(D), and compelling discovery...

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