Williams v. Inglis

Decision Date18 February 2020
Docket NumberCourt of Appeals Case No. 19A-CT-1438
Citation142 N.E.3d 467
Parties Robert L. WILLIAMS, Appellant-Plaintiff, v. Gavin H. INGLIS, M.D., and St. Vincent Hospital and Health Center, Appellee-Defendant.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Attorneys for Appellant: Stephen B. Caplin, Professional Corporation, Indianapolis, Indiana, Sharon R. Merriman, Voyles Vaiana Lukemeyer Baldwin & Webb, Indianapolis, Indiana

Attorneys for Appellee: Marilyn A. Young, Erin E. Meyers, Zeigler Cohen & Koch, Indianapolis, Indiana

Pyle, Judge.

Statement of the Case

[1] Robert L. Williams ("Williams") appeals the trial court's denial of his motion to amend his complaint and the trial court's grant of partial summary judgment to St. Vincent Hospital and Health Care Center ("the Hospital") on Williams' medical malpractice claim. Concluding that the trial court did not err, we affirm the trial court's rulings.

[2] We affirm.

Issues
1. Whether the trial court abused its discretion by denying Williams' motion to amend his complaint to add a federal claim.
2. Whether the trial court erred by granting partial summary judgment to the Hospital on Williams' medical malpractice claim against the Hospital.
Facts

[3] In November 2012, forty-three-year-old Williams experienced some pain in his lower back and in his left buttock and leg. On November 26 and 28, 2012, Williams sought treatment with a chiropractor.

[4] Williams' pain progressed, and on December 2, 2012, he went to the emergency department at the Hospital. Williams checked in at the front desk and gave them his insurance information. After Williams was taken back to a room, a nurse checked his vitals. Dr. Gavin Inglis ("Dr. Inglis") then examined Williams. Williams told Dr. Inglis that he had pain in his back that was radiating into his buttocks and down both legs, as well as numbness in his groin, genitals, and perianal area. Williams told Dr. Inglis that he had had this condition for over one week. Additionally, Williams informed Dr. Inglis that he could not always feel when he needed to urinate but that he had not had any bladder or bowel incontinence or accidents. Dr. Inglis physically examined Williams, including palpating Williams' spine, bilateral glutes, hamstrings, legs, and feet. Dr. Inglis also checked Williams' reflexes. Dr. Inglis' exam revealed that Williams had pain and tenderness in his glutes and hamstrings and decreased sensation in his scrotum. Dr. Inglis ordered an MRI for Williams, and the MRI revealed that Williams had a herniated disc at L4-L5 and central spinal stenosis. Dr. Inglis discussed the MRI results with Williams and diagnosed Williams with having a central disc extrusion with central spinal stenosis and muscle strain. Dr. Inglis discharged Williams from the Hospital that same day with instructions to follow up with orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Hardacker ("Dr. Hardacker"), within two to three days, and he provided Williams with Dr. Hardacker's phone number. Dr. Inglis prescribed steroids, pain medication, and muscle relaxants to Williams and instructed him to return to the emergency department if his symptoms worsened.

[5] A few days later, on December 6, 2012, Williams returned to the emergency department at the Hospital and was again physically examined by Dr. Inglis. At that time, Williams had decreased pain in his hamstrings but continued pain and numbness in his scrotum and anus. Dr. Inglis ordered a bladder scan for Williams, and the test revealed no bladder issue. Dr. Inglis then arranged for Williams to have a neurosurgical consult with Dr. James Miller ("Dr. Miller"). Williams was admitted to the Hospital, and the following day, Dr. Miller operated on Williams and performed an L4-L5 laminectomy and discectomy . Williams was discharged from the Hospital on December 14, 2012.

[6] In April 2014, Williams filed a proposed complaint, pursuant to the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, with the Indiana Department of Insurance ("IDOI"). He filed the complaint against Dr. Inglis, the Hospital, and St. Vincent Emergency Physicians ("the Emergency Physicians"), and he alleged that these health care providers had committed medical malpractice on December 2, 2012. Williams' main complaint was that Dr. Inglis had not obtained a neurosurgical consult prior to discharging Williams on December 2, 2012. The IDOI then appointed a medical review panel.

[7] On September 12, 2014, Williams filed a complaint in the trial court ("trial court complaint"). He filed this complaint against Dr. Inglis, the Hospital, and the Emergency Physicians (collectively, "the defendants") and alleged medical malpractice. The names of the defendants were initially anonymous pursuant to INDIANA CODE § 34-18-8-7. In his initial trial court complaint, Williams alleged that these defendants were "negligent in providing health care" to him and that their "acts and/or failures to act were malpractice in connection with providing [him] health care." (App. Vol. 2 at 31). He further alleged that he had been injured "[a]s a direct and proximate result of the acts of negligence and malpractice" of the defendants. (App. Vol. 2 at 31). The complaint also alleged that Dr. Inglis was an agent or employee of the Hospital and the Emergency Physicians.

[8] On November 1, 2017, the medical review panel issued a unanimous opinion, finding that the evidence did "not support the conclusion that the Defendants [had] failed to meet the standard of care" and that "the conduct complained of was not a factor of [Williams'] resultant damages." (App. Vol. 2 at 117).

[9] On December 18, 2017, Williams filed a motion to amend his trial court complaint. Specifically, he sought to amend the complaint so that he could: (1) identify the anonymous defendants by name (pursuant to INDIANA CODE § 34-18-8-7 ); and (2) add an additional count alleging a federal claim under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act ("EMTALA").1 In his proposed amended complaint, Williams set forth two counts: (1) "Medical Malpractice[;]" and (2) "Violation of EMTALA[.]" (App. Vol. 2 at 44, 46) (modified from upper case). In his medical malpractice count, he alleged, as he had in his original trial court complaint, that the defendants were "negligent in providing health care" to him on December 2, 2012 and that their "acts and/or failures to act were malpractice in connection with providing [him] health care." (App. Vol. 2 at 45-46). He also again alleged that he had been injured "[a]s a direct and proximate result of the acts of negligence and malpractice" of the defendants. (App. Vol. 2 at 46). In his EMTALA count, Williams alleged that the defendants had violated EMTALA on December 2, 2012 because they had "failed to stabilize[ ] [his] condition before he [had been] transferred/discharged" from the Hospital's emergency room. (App. Vol. 2 at 47).

[10] The Hospital filed an objection to Williams' request to add an EMTALA count to the complaint. Specifically, the Hospital asserted that the two-year statute of limitations for Williams' federal EMTALA claim had passed and could not be tolled for any reason, including waiting for an opinion from the medical review panel. In support of its argument, the Hospital cited to HCA Health Servs. of Indiana, Inc. v. Gregory , 596 N.E.2d 974, 976 (Ind. Ct. App. 1992), trans. denied . In HCA Health Servs. , our Court analyzed the interaction between EMTALA and Indiana's Medical Malpractice Act ("the State Medical Malpractice Act") when determining whether a plaintiff was barred from filing an EMTALA claim because she had not filed it within the two-year statute of limitations. Our Court held that EMTALA preempted the State Medical Malpractice Act and that the plaintiff could "not shield her non-compliance with EMTALA's procedural mandates by asserting compliance with the State [Medical Malpractice] Act" nor "use the State [Medical Malpractice] Act to foil EMTALA's statute of limitations." HCA Health Servs. , 596 N.E.2d at 978.

[11] Thereafter, Williams filed a response to the Hospital's objection and argued that he had "protected his [EMTALA] claim from a statute of limitations defense" when he filed his proposed medical malpractice complaint with the IDOI in April 2014 and his trial court complaint in September 2014. (App. Vol. 2 at 63). He also argued that provisions in the State Medical Malpractice Act prohibited him from including an EMTALA claim in his trial court complaint until after the statute of limitations had already passed. Additionally, he asserted that the EMTALA count that he sought to add to his original trial court complaint was not time barred because Indiana Trial Rule 15(C) would allow the claim to relate back to the original trial court complaint.

[12] On February 16, 2018, the trial court issued an order in which it granted Williams' request to identify the defendants by name and denied his request to add the EMTALA count to the trial court complaint. Williams then filed an amended complaint identifying the defendants, which included Dr. Inglis, Emergency Physicians, and the Hospital. Again, Williams alleged that Dr. Inglis was an agent or employee of the Hospital and the Emergency Physicians.

[13] On October 15, 2018, the Hospital filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that there was no genuine issue of fact regarding Williams' medical malpractice claim against the Hospital. As part of its designated evidence, it attached the medical review panel's unanimous opinion.

[14] Thereafter, Williams filed a response to the Hospital's summary judgment motion, arguing that the Hospital was not entitled to summary judgment because there were material issues of fact regarding whether: (1) Dr. Inglis had breached the standard of care; (2) Dr. Inglis' breach of the standard of care caused Williams' damages; (3) Dr. Inglis was an agent or employee of the Hospital when he provided health care to Williams; and (4) the Hospital was negligent per se based on a violation...

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3 cases
  • Miller v. Patel
    • United States
    • Indiana Supreme Court
    • October 7, 2021
    ...Howard Regional Health Hospital, for violating EMTALA. The trial court denied her motion. It relied heavily on Williams v. Inglis , 142 N.E.3d 467, 476 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020), trans. denied , which held EMTALA's two-year statute of limitations preempted an amendment under Trial Rule 15(C).Mil......
  • Miller v. Patel
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • November 30, 2020
    ...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 c......
  • Cross-Road Farms, LLC v. Whitlock
    • United States
    • Indiana Appellate Court
    • September 30, 2020
    ...805, 812 (Ind. 2012) (discussing standard of review for a trial court's Trial Rule 60(B) ruling), reh'g denied ; Williams v. Inglis , 142 N.E.3d 467, 475 (Ind. Ct. App. 2020) (discussing standard of review for a trial court's ruling on a motion to amend a complaint under Trial Rule 15 ), re......

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