McCarty v. Hospital Corp. of America

Decision Date28 October 1991
Docket NumberNo. 77S01-9110-CV-847,77S01-9110-CV-847
Citation580 N.E.2d 228
PartiesJohn W. McCARTY, Appellant (Plaintiff Below), v. HOSPITAL CORPORATION OF AMERICA, and Terre Haute Regional Hospital, Appellees (Defendants Below).
CourtIndiana Supreme Court

KRAHULIK, Justice.

Hospital Corporation Corporation of America ("HCA") and Terre Haute Regional Hospital, Inc. ("THRH") seek transfer requesting that the trial court's grant of partial judgment on the pleadings be reinstated. The trial court granted a partial judgment after determining that several counts, V through IX, of the amended complaint were barred by the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals reversed. 560 N.E.2d 1268. The sole issue in this case is whether the amendments relate back to the original complaint and are thus considered to come within the limitations period. We accept transfer in order to resolve alleged conflicts between published opinions of the Court of Appeals.

I. Facts

In October of 1982, McCarty instituted an action against the hospital alleging that an operation performed there by Dr. Manuel Cacdac was unnecessary. McCarty also accused the hospital of failing to investigate the need for the operation and of concealing its knowledge of the fact that Cacdac was performing unnecessary surgeries. McCarty simultaneously filed against Cacdac asserting virtually the same claims. The two cases were consolidated.

In January of 1988, McCarty was granted leave to amend. The amendments included additional claims that (1) the hospital breached an implied-in-fact contract by failing to employ qualified doctors at a time when it knew or should have known that Cacdac was performing unnecessary surgeries; (2) that a nurse, an agent of the hospital, assigned the responsibility of investigating the need for surgeries occurring at the hospital, failed to recognize that this surgery was unnecessary; (3) that the hospital failed to institute an adequate investigation procedure to determine the necessity of operations at the hospital; and (4) that the hospital and its agents entered into a conspiracy with the doctor to perform unnecessary surgeries and that they aided and abetted the doctor in performing these surgeries. The hospital argues that the amendments represent entirely new claims or causes of action and, as such, they do not relate back to the period before the expiration of the statute of limitations pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 15(C).

II. Discussion

The doctrine of "relation back" provides that a pleading may be amended to add a new claim or defense after the statute of limitations period has run so long as it "arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading." Ind.T.R. 15(C). If the new claim or "cause of action" meets this requirement, it will be treated as though it were part of the original pleading, thereby circumventing bar by the limitations period.

To apply Rule 15(C), a court must determine what is meant by the phrase "conduct, transaction or occurrence." Indiana courts have taken somewhat divergent positions and, occasionally, we have created undue limitations on the right to amend. For example, in City of Crawfordsville v. Michael, (1985), Ind.App., 479 N.E.2d 102, trans. denied (1986), Ind., 487 N.E.2d 159, Michael filed an action against the city for injuries she received when a city truck driver collided with her car. The action, filed in 1978, was based on claims of respondeat superior. In 1983, the trial court allowed amendments, including claims of negligent entrustment. The Court of Appeals reversed the jury verdict for the plaintiff and held that negligent entrustment was "an entirely new claim which will not relate back under Indiana law." Id. at 105. The court read T.R. 15(C) to say that "relation back of an amendment which states an entirely new cause of action" is prohibited. Id. Consequently, the court concluded that because the negligent entrustment claim was premised on the negligence of the city itself, while respondeat superior claims concerned only the city's liability for its employees' negligent acts, the amendment stated a new cause of action and, as such, would not relate back.

Although this Court denied transfer, two justices felt that the "relation back" issue was decided improperly and deserved additional discussion. Justice DeBruler, joined by Justice Shepard, dissented to the denial of transfer of Michael, and stated that the emphasis on "cause of action" language results in "an unduly rigid approach in applying the rule, in that it has not given adequate weight to the factual circumstances." 487 N.E.2d 159, 160 (1986) (DeBruler and Shepard, JJ., dissenting). The opinion considered "[t]he general set of facts initially relied upon [including] Adams' conduct in driving the city truck, drinking alcohol, the collision, the injuries to Michael, Adams' status at the time as a city employee, and the conduct of the city supervisors in setting up the scope of Adams' employment." Id. Additionally, the opinion referred to "[t]he factual dimension added to these by the amendment includ[ing] Adams' history of driving and alcohol abuse, and the knowledge of city supervisors of such history, as they went about assigning him tasks and dealing with him." Id. The opinion concludes that "[b]ased upon a factual analysis of this type, it was clearly reasonable for the...

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12 cases
  • RESOL. TP. v. O'Bear, Overholser, Smith & Huffer
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana
    • April 17, 1995
    ...of the limitations period: to stave off stale claims and the problems of proof endemic to those claims. See McCarty v. Hospital Corp. of America, 580 N.E.2d 228, 231 (Ind.1991) ("The policy upon which statutes of limitation are premised" is "guarding against stale claims, lost evidence and ......
  • Miller v. Patel
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • October 7, 2021
    ...Under both rules, a new claim can be timely by relating back to the date when the original complaint was filed. McCarty v. Hosp. Corp. of Am. , 580 N.E.2d 228, 230–31 (Ind. 1991) ; Bensel v. Allied Pilots Ass'n , 387 F.3d 298, 310 (3d Cir. 2004). These rules ensure claims comply, rather tha......
  • Miller v. Patel
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • November 30, 2020
    ...or defense the opportunity to use this claim or defense despite the running of the statute of limitations." McCarty v. Hosp. Corp. of Am. , 580 N.E.2d 228, 231 (Ind. 1991) ; see also Cinergy Corp. v. St. Paul Surplus Lines Ins. Co. , 785 N.E.2d 586, 592 (Ind. Ct. App. 2003) (noting that "mo......
  • Liberty Mut. Ins. Co. v. Connecticut Indem. Co.
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    • June 7, 1995
    ...479 N.E.2d 102 (Ind.Ct.App.1985), trans. denied, 487 N.E.2d 159 (Ind.1986), abrogated on other grounds by McCarty v. Hospital Corp. of Am., 580 N.E.2d 228, 231 (Ind.1991). There the employer was not liable because the employee caused the accident using the company truck while on personal Li......
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