Indiana Supreme Court finds trial court lacked authority to order submissions be redacted in malpractice case

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed a Lake Superior Court’s order for patients to redact their submissions to a medical review panel in a medical malpractice case.

The six patients in the lawsuit filed medical malpractice actions against the estate of a deceased physician and his practice, alleging the physician breached the standard of care.

The patients submitted medical records, narrative statements, testimony from other doctors and a wrongful death complaint the physician’s wife had filed in a separate malpractice action to medical review panels.

The respondents filed a petition seeking redaction of the wife’s complaint, as well as any mentions of its contents in the patients’ submissions. The trial court granted the petition.

In July 2023, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s order.

However, the high court disagreed.

“We agree with Patients. In reaching that conclusion, we outline the scope of a trial court’s authority under Section 34-18-10-14 and conclude that it does not give trial courts the authority to redact or otherwise exclude evidence submitted to a medical review panel,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote. “We then hold that the third-party complaint could be considered evidence subject to the panels’ discretion.”

The court did state the trial courts have the authority to grant relief under section 34-18-10-14 only if there is a failure to act as required by statute.

“In summary, trial courts have no authority under Section 34-18-10-14 to act as gatekeeper of the evidence a party submits to the medical review panel,” Rush wrote. “And that evidence includes any material submitted by a party that tends to produce conviction in the mind as to the existence of an alleged fact.”

The high court remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with the opinion.

This article was first published in The Indiana Lawyer.

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