Indiana Medical Malpractice Cap Challenged

xray%202.jpgTimothy Plank, the husband of the late Debbie Plank, has authorized his attorneys to file a challenge to Indiana’s long-standing cap on medical malpractice injuries. Indiana’s current medical malpractice law limits awards to $1.25 million. On September 3, 2009, a Marion County jury returned a verdict of $ 8.5 million against Community Hospital of Indianapolis. The Planks alleged that Community Hospital had misplaced an x-ray that showed that Mrs. Plank had a small bowel obstruction.

Debbie Plank went to Community North Hospital Emergency Room three times complaining of abdominal pains. On the morning of November 13, 2001, she was admitted. An x-ray showed a small bowel obstruction (which could be a surgical emergency). Normal hospital procedure called for the radiology department to call the treating physicians to alert them to the condition. It was not done in this case. The patient was seen by a surgeon and gastroenterologist who did not know she had an obstruction. The treating doctors went to the radiology department, but could not find the film. It was misplaced. As a result, the treating doctors did not know of the condition, and the surgery was delayed 24 hours. When the surgery was performed the following day, the surgeon found that part of the patient’s intestine had died. Mrs. Plank was placed on life support, but passed away on 12/1/01. She was 47.

The key to the case is that a small bowel obstruction can be life threatening

The widower was angered when the hospital contacted him with a customer satisfaction survey after his wife’s death and wanted to talk to her about how she liked her care while in the hospital. The hospital representative asked him, “Are you satisfied with the hospital’s care?”

The plaintiff said he didn’t file the lawsuit for the money, but rather the lack of awareness of the error and lack of apology from the hospital. “I am doing this to help others in this situation, not for the money.” Mr. Plank plans to put a substantial portion of the award into the Deborah L Plank Memorial Scholarship, administered by the Hancock County (Indiana) Community Foundation. The Scholarship funds are directed to help Hancock County college students attend the college of their choice. You can find more information about the Deborah L. Plank Memorial Scholarship at the provided link.

The Plank case was tried and the cap challenge will be tried together by John Muller of Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy and Mike Stephenson of McNeely, Stephenson, Thopy & Harold.