Individuals are generally housed at a County Jail while they wait for their trial or when they are waiting to be sent to a Department of Correction facility after being sentenced.
While at the County Jail, Indiana law dictates the County Sheriff is the one charged with a duty to administer the jail in a manner which preserves the safety of the inmates. Indeed, the Sheriff must exercise reasonable care to preserve the life, health, and safety of those in custody.
Frequently, the County Sheriff will delegate duties to jail employees to run the jail, and sometimes the County Sheriff will delegate the responsibility for providing medical attention to inmates to a doctor or an outside health care provider. However, even when duties are delegated, the Sheriff is responsible for the acts of jail employees, if the employees, acting in the course and scope of their employment, commit negligence. Similarly, the Sheriff is responsible for the acts of heath care providers. Therefore, when an inmate at a County Jail commits suicide; is sexually assaulted by a jail employee; or is deprived reasonable medical care; the Sheriff, in an official capacity, may be liable for damages.
Any individual who desires to make a claim against a County Sheriff, in their official capacity, must file what is known as a Notice of Tort Claim. This Notice must be filed within 180 days after the loss or event and must contain specific required information or the claim will be barred. Consequently, it is important that individuals who have suffered an injury or event at a County Jail, as a result of the actions of a jail employee or medical care provider, consult with an experienced attorney.
Generally, with medical malpractice cases, there must be expert testimony provided to prove malpractice occurred. There are also jury instructions stating that a jury may only rely on the expert testimony when determining whether malpractice occurred. A recent Indiana Court of Appeals case, however, highlighted where common sense may be used in a medical malpractice case.
Common Sense vs Medical Malpractice
In Thomson v. St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and Michael Borkowski, M.D., while the Plaintiff was undergoing a hysterectomy, the arm board connected to the surgery table became detached and left her arm dangling to the side. After surgery, Ms. Thomson had right arm pain and was later diagnosed with a right radial nerve injury, probably caused by compression. Ms. Thomson’s claim was first heard by a medical review panel pursuant to Indiana Code Section 34-18-8-4. The panel found there was no negligence. At this point, Ms. Thomson filed her case in state court and had to rebut the panel’s opinion on summary judgment.
Summary judgment was granted in favor of the hospital and anesthesiologist; however, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision using the res ipsa loquitur or “common knowledge” exception. This exception is used when the Plaintiff can show “(1) the injuring instrumentality is under the management or exclusive control of the defendant or his servants and (2) the accident is such as in the ordinary course of things does not happen if those who have management of the injuring instrumentality use proper care.” The Court noted the anesthesiologist did not have to have exclusive control of the arm board to be subject to the common knowledge exception.
In overturning the summary judgment ruling the Court of Appeals noted “it suffices to say that common sense and experience lead us to conclude that an arm board should not become detached leaving a patient’s arm dangling for such a period of time that the patient suffers nerve injury.” Even though medical malpractice cases do require expert testimony, this case highlights where common sense may enter into these complex cases.
If you or a loved one have experienced medical malpractice or if something went wrong during surgery, there is a birth injury, or a failure to diagnose, the personal injury attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP are waiting to speak with you. Call us for a free consultation of your case.
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