David C. Jensen
Mary A. Findling
Hammond, IN Attorneys for Appellee
David C. Jensen
Mary A. Findling
EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS OF
INDIANAPOLIS, W. LARRY CORBETT,
M.D., METHODIST HEALTH CARE
CENTER d/b/a METHODIST
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH CENTERS,
INC., JOHN W. TIMOTHY, JR., M.D.,
AND MICHAEL A. KENNEDY, M.D.,
Appellants (Defendants below),
Appellee (Plaintiff below).
) Supreme Court No.
) Court of Appeals No.
November 3, 1999
On May 9, 1996, Pettit sued Methodist Health Care Center d/b/a Methodist Occupational Health Centers, Inc., John W. Timothy, Jr., M.D., and Michael A. Kennedy, M.D.
(collectively Providers), along with Emergency Physicians of Indianapolis and W. Larry
Corbett, M.D. (collectively Emergency Physicians), for medical malpractice. All were
health care providers qualified under the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act, Ind. Code § 27-
12-1-1 et seq. (Act).See footnote
Pettit alleged that Providers and Emergency Physicians were negligent in failing to refer him to a vascular specialist after he exhibited signs and symptoms of an arterial clot in his right leg and that this caused him to lose his right leg to amputation.
A jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of Pettit and against Providers in the
amount of $750,000.00. Pettit received an adverse jury verdict on his claim against Emergency Physicians, which he does not challenge in this appeal. In a post-trial motion, Pettit
sought pre-judgment interest. Alleging that Dr. Timothy pursued defenses at trial that were
frivolous, unreasonable, or groundless, Pettit also filed a motion seeking attorneys' fees and
costs against Dr. Timothy pursuant to Ind. Code § 34-1-32-1. (repealed by P.L. 1-1998)
(current version at Ind. Code § 34-52-1-1).
The trial court granted both motions, awarding Pettit $134,383.92 in pre-judgment interestSee footnote 2 and $13,305.00 in costs including attorneys' fees. Providers appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's determination as to pre-judgment interest, holding that Providers were not responsible for the payment of pre-judgment interest in that the award
resulted in Pettit recovering more than the maximum amount recoverable under the Act.
The Court of Appeals also reversed the trial court's determination as to attorneys' fees,
determining that Pettit was not entitled to this award. Emergency Physicians of Indianapolis
v. Pettit, 714 N.E.2d 1111 (Ind. Ct. App. 1999).
such as [interest, costs and other expenses]. These collateral litigation expenses arise separately by operation of law and are regulated under distinct
statutes, which guide parties' decisions in nearly every stage of either pursuing or defending medical malpractice claims under the Act. To conclude that
the statute establishes solid liability caps is to create a separate set of rules
for the allocation of these expenses in litigating what remain essentially tort
suits notwithstanding the passage of the Act.
Poehlman, 1999 WL 801075, at *3. We also specifically considered the issue of pre-
judgment interest and noted that [i]n any particular case, the health care provider or the
Insurance Commissioner may develop an entirely different litigation strategy from the other,
including a different strategy as to such matters as pre-judgment settlement and post-
judgment debt payment. Id. at *4 (emphasis added). We ultimately held that
the limitations set forth in the recovery limitation section of the Act are limitations on damage amounts, not collateral litigation expenses; [and] each judgment debtor is individually responsible for its own collateral litigation expenses associated with its settlement or judgment figure, irrespective of whether the total figure exceeds the Act's statutory damage limits . . . .
Id. at *6 (emphasis in original).
We consider our decision in Poehlman to be stare decisis that a qualified health care
provider is responsible for the payment of the collateral litigation expense of pre-judgment
interest notwithstanding that the entire amount of the judgment equals the maximum amount
recoverable under the Act or that the imposition of pre-judgment interest may cause the
provider's total judgment debt to exceed $100,000.
We also note, as we did in a different context in Poehlman, that the legislature chose
to exempt the Patient's Compensation Fund, but not health care providers, from the provisions of the Prejudgment Interest Statute. Ind. Code § 34-4-37-4 (1993) (This chapter does
not apply to a claim against the patient's compensation fund . . . .) (current version at Ind.
Code § 34-51-4-2 (1998)).See footnote
We find this to be persuasive indicia that the legislature
considered and rejected exempting qualified health care providers from application of the
Prejudgment Interest Statute.
We (1) grant transfer; (2) adopt and incorporate by reference Part II of the Court of Appeals's opinion addressing the issue of attorneys' fees; (3) vacate the remainder of the
opinion of the Court of Appeals; and (4) remand to the trial court for re-computation of that
amount of pre-judgment interest (and court costs) attributable to the $100,000 damage award
that Providers are responsible for paying.
SHEPARD, C.J., and DICKSON and BOEHM, JJ., concur
(a) The total amount recoverable for an injury or death of a patient may not exceed
five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) except that, as to an act of malpractice that
occurs on or after January 1, 1990, the total amount recovered for an injury or death may
not exceed seven hundred fifty thousand dollars ($750,000).
(b) A health care provider qualified under this article is not liable for an amount in
excess of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) for an occurrence of malpractice.
(c) Any amount due from a judgment or settlement that is in excess of the total
liability of all liable health care providers, subject to subsections (a), (b), and (d), shall be
paid from the patient's compensation fund under IC 27-12-15.
Ind. Code § 27-12-14-3(a)-(c) (1993) (repealed by P.L. 1-1998) (current version at Ind. Code § 34- 18-14-3 (1998)). See footnote Effective July 1, 1999, the legislature expanded the upper liability limit on damages to [o]ne million two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($1,250,000) for an act of malpractice that occurs after June 30, 1999. Id. § 34-18-14-3 (1998).
Converted from WP6.1 by the Access Indiana Information Network