Miller v. Patel

Decision Date30 November 2020
Docket NumberCourt of Appeals Case No. 20A-CT-1088
Citation160 N.E.3d 1111
Parties Betty MILLER, Individually and as Personal Representative of the Estate of John Allen Miller, Appellant-Plaintiff, v. Laxeshkumar PATEL, M.D., John Schiltz, M.D., Benjamin Coplan, M.D., Joseph Hill, M.D., Erik Fossum, M.D., Bradford Hale, M.D., Christine Tran, M.D., James Blickendorf, M.D., Robert McAllister, M.D., Sara Koerwitz, M.D., Timothy Held, PA, Community Health Network, Inc., d/b/a Community Howard Regional Health Hospital and Community Howard Behavioral Health, Community Physicians of Indiana, Inc., d/b/a Community Physician Network, Community Howard Regional Health, Inc., St. Joseph Hospital & Health Center, Inc., St. Vincent Health, Inc., Ascension Health, Inc., and Medical Associates, LLP, Appellees-Defendants.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Attorneys for Appellant: Nicholas C. Deets, Tyler J. Zipes, Hovde Dassow + Deets, LLC, Indianapolis, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellees, Community Howard2 : Edna M. Koch, Joseph D. McPike, II, Erin E. Meyers, Zeigler Cohen & Koch, Indianapolis, Indiana

Kirsch, Judge.

[1] In this discretionary interlocutory appeal, Betty Miller ("Miller"), individually and as personal representative of the estate of John Allen Miller ("John"), appeals the trial court's denial of her motion to amend her complaint to add a claim against Community Health Network, Inc., d/b/a Community Howard Regional Health Hospital and Community Howard Behavioral Health, and Community Howard Regional Health, Inc. ("Community Howard") under 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd, the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act, ("EMTALA"). On appeal, Miller contends that in denying her motion to amend, the trial court erred by relying on this court's opinion in Williams v. Inglis , 142 N.E.3d 467 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020), trans. denied , which she asserts was incorrectly decided and is in need of reexamination. Finding that Williams was correctly decided, we find no error in the trial court's denial of Miller's motion to amend.

[2] We affirm.

Facts and Procedural History

[3] Miller filed a complaint on December 18, 2018, against Laxeshkumar Patel, M.D., John Schiltz, M.D., Benjamin Coplan, M.D., Joseph Hill, M.D., Erik Fossum, M.D., Bradford Hale, M.D., Christine Tran, M.D., James Blickendorf, M.D., Robert McAllister, M.D., Sara Koerwitz, M.D., Timothy Held, PA, Community Howard, St. Joseph Hospital & Health Center, Inc., St. Vincent Health, Inc., Ascension Health, Inc., and Medical Associates, LLP (collectively, the "Defendants"), in which she alleged that the Defendants were negligent in their care and treatment of Zachary Miller ("Zachary"). Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 33-38. In the complaint, Miller asserted that between December 9, 2016, through January 8, 2017, the Defendants treated Zachary for serious mental illnesses that included suicidal ideations, major depression, drug abuse, psychosis, anxiety, threats to his life and the lives of others, killing animals, and bipolar disorder. Id. at 35. Over the course of that thirty-day period, medical personnel at Community Howard treated Zachary for these conditions on at least five occasions. Id. The complaint further alleged that on January 8, 2017, Zachary came to the emergency room at Community Howard Regional Hospital requesting to be admitted due to his ongoing mental illness and dangerous propensities, and that he was treated and discharged by hospital physicians and a physician's assistant. Id. Specifically, after his discharge, in the overnight hours of January 8-9, 2017, Zachary returned to the home of his grandparents, Miller and John, and killed John by beating him with a frying pan and cutting John's wrists because he heard voices telling him to do so. Id.

[4] On February 5, 2019, Community Howard filed an answer to the complaint, in which it denied Miller's allegations of negligence and the characterization of Zachary's presentations for medical treatment over the period spanning December 9, 2016 through January 8, 2017. Appellee's App. Vol. 2 at 2-8. On January 31, 2020, Community Howard filed a motion for summary judgment contending that Miller lacked standing to assert a negligence claim and that Community Howard was immune from civil liability. Id. at 9-12.

[5] On February 14, 2020, Miller filed a motion for leave to amend the complaint and the proposed amended complaint, which sought to add a claim under EMTALA against Community Howard. Appellant's App. Vol. 2 at 39-49. On February 27, 2020, Community Howard objected to Miller's motion for leave to amend, arguing that the proposed amendment was barred by the two-year statute of limitations that governs EMTALA claims. Id. at 50-56; see 42 U.S.C. § 1395dd(d)(2)(C) ("No action may be brought under this paragraph more than two years after the date of the violation with respect to which the action is brought."). Miller filed a reply on March 13, 2020, contending that her motion for leave to amend the EMTALA claim was not barred by the two-year statute of limitations because it arose out of the same conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth in her original complaint and should relate back to her original complaint under Indiana Trial Rule 15(C), and that Williams was incorrect in holding that EMTALA's statute of limitations preempted Indiana Trial Rule 15(C). Id. at 57-64. On March 27, 2020, the trial court denied Miller's motion for leave to amend the complaint to add a claim under EMTALA. Id. at 65-69. In particular, the trial court's order denied the motion to amend on the basis of Williams and HCA Health Servs. of Ind., Inc. v. Gregory , 596 N.E.2d 974 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992), trans. denied , stating:

Thus, this Court finds that the Indiana Court of Appeals has held that EMTALA preempts any state or local law that directly conflicts with the 2-year statute of limitations. Since [ Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) ] is in direct conflict, EMTALA preempts this trial rule and mandates that the strict 2-year statute of limitation[s] be imposed. Since [Miller] filed [her] Motion to Amend Complaint on February 14, 2020, and the last date of treatment was January 8, 2017, the Motion to Amend is in violation of EMTALA's 2-year statute of limitation[s] and is futile because [ Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) ] is preempted by federal law.

Id. at 67-68.3

[6] On April 23, 2020, Miller filed a motion that sought to certify the denial of the motion to amend for interlocutory appeal, arguing that Williams was "incorrectly decided." Id. at 71; 70-77. Over Community Howard's objection, the trial court certified Miller's motion to certify the denial of the motion to amend for interlocutory appeal. Id. at 89-90. On May 26, 2020, Miller filed with this court a motion to accept interlocutory appeal. Id. at 91-106. Over Community Howard's objection, this court accepted jurisdiction over Miller's interlocutory appeal on June 18, 2020. Id. at 133-34. Miller now appeals.

Discussion and Decision

[7] Miller argues that the trial court abused its discretion by denying her motion to amend because it erred in its application of Williams and HCA Health Servs . to the denial, and that this court should "reexamine" Williams . Appellant's Br. at 12. Indiana Trial Rule 15(A) governs amendments to pleadings and provides as follows:

A party may amend his pleading once as a matter of course at any time before a responsive pleading is served or, if the pleading is one to which no responsive pleading is permitted, and the action has not been placed upon the trial calendar, he may so amend it at any time within thirty [30] days after it is served. Otherwise a party may amend his pleading only by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party; and leave shall be given when justice so requires. A party shall plead in response to an amended pleading within the time remaining for response to the original pleading or within twenty [20] days after service of the amended pleading, whichever period may be the longer, unless the court otherwise orders.

Amendments to pleadings are to be liberally allowed, but the trial court retains broad discretion in granting or denying amendments. Hilliard v. Jacobs , 927 N.E.2d 393, 398 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied . We will reverse upon a showing of only an abuse of that discretion. Id.

[8] An abuse of discretion may occur if the trial court's decision is clearly against the logic and effect of the facts and circumstances before the court, or if the court has misinterpreted the law. Id. We consider whether a trial court's ruling on a motion to amend is an abuse of discretion by evaluating a number of factors, including " ‘undue delay, bad faith, or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiency by amendment previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of the amendment, and futility of the amendment.’ " Id. (quoting Palacios v. Kline , 566 N.E.2d 573, 575 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991) ). In reviewing a discretionary motion, we generally affirm if there is any rational basis for the trial court action. Palacios , 566 N.E.2d at 575. However, to the extent our analysis depends on whether Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) is preempted by EMTALA, we review that issue of law de novo. See State v. Norfolk S. Ry. Co. , 107 N.E.3d 468, 471 (Ind. 2018).

[9] Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) governs relation back of amendments and provides, in pertinent part, "[w]henever the claim or defense asserted in the amended pleading arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth or attempted to be set forth in the original pleading, the amendment relates back to the date of the original pleading."4 "The purpose of the doctrine of relation back is to allow a party who, through the course of discovery, realizes a new claim 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...

To continue reading

Request your trial
2 cases
  • Miller v. Patel
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • October 7, 2021
    ...appealed, and our Court of Appeals affirmed. It rejected Miller's attempts to distinguish Williams from her case. Miller v. Patel , 160 N.E.3d 1111, 1119 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020), vacated. It also dismissed the significance of federal district court cases that addressed EMTALA amendments under ......
  • Martin v. Brown
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • July 29, 2021
    ...are to be liberally allowed, but the trial court retains broad discretion in granting or denying amendments." Miller v. Patel , 160 N.E.3d 1111, 1115 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020) (citing Hilliard v. Jacobs , 927 N.E.2d 393, 398 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), trans. denied ). "We will reverse upon a showing ......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT