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Newkirk v. Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC. (898 N.E.2d 299)

Indiana-nursing-home-neglect-elderly-woman-200x300Articles: Indiana

Newkirk v. Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC. (898 N.E.2d 299)

Newkirk v. Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC. (898 N.E.2d 299)
Plaintiff (Appellee) – Newkirk, representing the estate of Martha O’Neal
Defendant (Appellant) – Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC
Supreme Court of Indiana (2008)
Plaintiff’s estate sued Bethlehem for the wrongful death of Martha O’Neal asserting claims under the Nursing Home Reform Act, Wrongful Death Act, Indiana Survival Act, and breach of contract. Bethlehem moved for summary judgment arguing that the Statute of Limitations had run. The trial court granted the motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded. The Supreme Court of Indiana then took the case up for review.
Martha O’Neal was admitted to Bethlehem Woods Nursing and Rehabilitation Center on September 10, 2001 for rehab following surgery. On September 22, 2001, a Bethlehem employee found O’Neal lying in a pool of her own blood. She was transferred to the hospital and later died on November 6, 2001. The estate of Martha O’Neal filed a complaint under the Wrongful Death Act on October 22, 2003, more than 2 years after the medical negligence occurred, but within 2 years of Martha’s death. The complaint alleged that Bethlehem’s negligent medical care ultimately lead to O’Neal’s death. Bethlehem moved for summary judgment arguing that the action was barred by the requirement to bring an action for medical malpractice within 2 years of the alleged act or omission.
The trial court granted Bethlehem’s motion.

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the Estate’s claim arose under the Indiana Professional Services Statute (“PSS”), not the Indiana Medical Malpractice Act (“MMA”) because Bethlehem was not a “qualified provider” under the MMA


Must a plaintiff file a wrongful death claim under the PSS within two years of the medical malpractice that ultimately caused the death of the plaintiff?
The Supreme Court applied Ellenwine, 846 N.E.2d 657, holding that :

“If the death was caused by the malpractice, (a) the malpractice claim (whether brought by the patient or another as the representative of the patient) terminates at the patient’s death; and (b) a wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the occurrence of malpractice.”

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